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The Little-Known Role of San Francisco’s Pride Parade in the Google Bus Protests

on Sunday, Jun. 29th

San Francisco’s Pride parade hit Market Street this weekend and marked 44 years of queer communities agitating for civil rights and recognition. But there’s another, emergent activist tradition being linked to Pride: the demonstrations known as the Google bus protests.

If you’ve somehow missed the slew of coverage about the protests, they’re not just targeting Google, but a number of big technology firms that use the white luxury coaches to transport workers to the South Bay and Peninsula — workers that protesters cite as a key factor in skyrocketing San Francisco rents. The first bus blockade to go viral in the media happened last December, when a labor organizer posed as a Google employee and shouted down fellow activists on Valencia Street.

But a few months earlier, the luxury shuttles had already been used by activists — one of whom was artist Leslie Dreyer — in Pride 2013. (more…)

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Photo Credit: Lydia Daniller/lydiadaniller.com

Closure of Marcus Books A Symbol Of San Francisco’s Black Flight

on Wednesday, Jun. 18th

A version of this story aired on APM’s Marketplace.

A legendary bookstore closed this year. Marcus Books had been in business in San Francisco since the 1960s, and was a gathering place for generations of black families — families that black community leaders say have been pushed out of the city in droves.

During World War II, the Navy hired thousands of workers for its Bay Area shipyards. Many of them were black migrants from the South who settled in San Francisco’s Fillmore District, where the internment of Japanese Americans had left vacancies.

A vibrant black community flourished, and music venues opened up on nearly every block, hosting jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. The Fillmore District was nicknamed the Harlem of the West.

In those years, if you were a black visitor to San Francisco, you most likely made a pilgrimage to Marcus Books. In 1956, the NAACP convention came to town, and Reverend Amos Brown, then just 15 years old, was a delegate from Mississippi, traveling with his mentor, civil rights hero Medger Evers. It was the first time Brown met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and the first time he visited Marcus Books. “It was an iconic institution of culture, information, sociopolitical empowerment,” Brown reminisced. “Many international scholars and thinkers and civil rights leaders appeared at Marcus Bookstore.” (more…)

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Erik Moore, Venture Capitalist, ‘Unapologetically Black’

on Monday, Mar. 17th

Erik Moore’s career in venture capital began with a hot tub.

It sounds like the ultimate Bay Area cliché, perhaps even more vividly so when you hear that the hot tub in question was destined for the downtown building once sought after by flashy former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.

It was 1999, and Tony Hsieh, one of the building’s well-to-do tenants, had just sold his first company to Microsoft. Hsieh wanted to install a Jacuzzi in his penthouse apartment – but it was against policy in the building, where Moore lived, too. After the fellow tenants ran into each other one night, Hsieh drafted Moore onto the homeowner’s association. They got the sought-after hot tub installed, and became friends.

Good enough friends that Moore invested in Hsieh’s company, one called Zappos.

At the time, he told Hsieh, “I’m not sure I have ever heard of a more stupid idea than selling shoes online.” But, deciding that Hsieh’s obvious talents as an entrepreneur outweighed the apparent dead-end nature of the internet service that became Zappos (which was later acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion) Moore made the investment that eventually provided the seed money for his venture capital fund, Base Ventures. (more…)

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Reflections on Innovation Past and Present, From SF Designer Yves Behar

on Wednesday, Feb. 26th

When San Francisco designer Yves Behar was 14 years old and living in his native Switzerland, he had a design epiphany, thanks to the Sony Walkman.

An aunt had sent the device to Behar, who’s now the Chief Creative officer of Jawbone, as a gift. He told the crowd at this week’s Launch Festival that for a teenager, being able to carry his music around was revelatory enough, but there was more — the ability to plug in a second headset, allowing him and a girlfriend to create an intimate world, free from adult intervention.

This seeded his philosophy that if you’re treating customers well — emotionally, ergonomically then you’re probably practicing good design. (more…)

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YCombinator Founder: “Starting a Startup Hurts”

on Monday, Feb. 24th

The founder of YCombinator is very, very happy that he’ll no longer be running that startup incubator.

That was a recurring theme of Paul Graham’s “Fireside Chat” with Launch founder Jason Calacanis, in which Graham also touched on various lessons from working with more than 600 startups, and being flamed on Twitter for comments about foreign accents and women in tech. (more…)

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Uber CEO: New Surge Pricing Feature “Brings Humanity” to Car Service App

on Monday, Feb. 24th

The online car service Uber will offer a new feature that gives users an option to reject controversial surge pricing until prices decline.

CEO Travis Kalanick, who was the keynote interview this morning at the first day of the Launch Festival in SF, told interviewer Jason Calacanis the company wants to “bring humanity” to the app, in part by introducing the new feature. (more…)

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Eat Your Heart Out, Snapchat: Facebook Buys Whatsapp for $16b

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

After this afternoon’s news that Facebook is purchasing messaging app Whatsapp for $16 billion, there’s a sentiment that’s swirling around in the non-tech Twitterverse: “how can an app we’ve never heard of” be worth this much? (Emphasis mine).

Sequoia Capital’s blog has a celebratory post that breaks down some of the numbers, including a key one: Whatsapp has 450 million users.

And a lot of those users are in India and the UK, where the app took off a full year before I began noticing American friends appearing in my contacts list.
(more…)

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The Allure of Anonymous Confessional Apps Secret and Whisper

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

This post was also published on NPR’s All Tech Considered.

“I’m worth 83.7 million dollars and bored out of my mind.”

“My friend who is a banker just told me he’s working on Dropbox’s IPO…oooh.”

“The drug use in Silicon Valley is outrageous. So are the inflated egos. It’s like LA for smart, ugly people.”

Declarations like these — some plaintive, some fueled by professional frustration, and some just plain gossipy — tumble forth anonymously on the new app Secret, and because many of them seem to be coming from within the booming tech industry, the app has built early buzz. But if Secret, designed to maximize sharing and minimize risk, picks up traction, the whistleblower-enabling capability of the app could have implications for a broad range of industries that would prefer their workers be quiet as kept.
(more…)

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First Ever Crappy Awards Target SF’s Tech Industry

on Monday, Feb. 10th

Inspired by the sly tradition of the Razzie Awards, which commemorate the worst of Hollywood, San Francisco fair housing advocates are kicking off “The Crappy Awards” tonight in the city’s art’s district.

A coalition of housing groups decided to throw an agitprop counterpunch to The Crunchies, the tech industry’s awards party for itself, which will be happening inside the Davies Symphony Hall while activists hold court on the sidewalk outside.

Fresh off the weekend’s tenant convention by the Anti-Displacement Coalition, The Crappy Awards will address the same themes that fair housing groups have been hammering for months, said Tony Robles, the Housing Organizing Director for Senior and Disability Action. (more…)

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California Regulators Say Coding Bootcamps “In Good Faith” Won’t Be Shut Down

on Monday, Feb. 3rd

The cease and desist letters sent to so-called “hacker schools” in California is an attempt to protect students, not entrenched educational institutions.

That, according to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), the state agency that regulates non-accredited schools (with some exceptions, like the Corinthian schools, and those that charge less than $2500 for the entire course of instruction). (more…)

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The Good And Bad Memes In #Ferguson Race Conversations

A friend of mine launched a depressing conversation recently, and asked me how much I think he is worth.

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Amazon Joins Mobile Payment Game, But Have They Lost The Magic Touch?

Once upon a time it seemed that Amazon could have been destined to be that rare company that could do no wrong.

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Augmented Reality: German Firm Shows Off Touch Based UI

We seem to be on a collision course with wearable computing.

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Will VR’s Killer App Make You Sick?

Polygon’s Ben Kuchera has a close-in look at the design philosophy going into Eve: Valkyrie, the “killer app” for virtual reality systems.

Image: Rachel I. Berman (Alice); Publicity image by Darial Sneed for Then She Fell.

Immersive Cinema And The Age of Voxelpunk

In the wake of the Facebook acquisition of Oculus VR the issue of the future of virtual reality beyond games has stepped into the media spotlight.

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