More Good than Bad

Pepsi take note.

Heineken celebrates what brings us together in this well-timed advertisement. Instead of dancing around or romanticizing the polarization of the world around us, this brand has set up an experiment that leans into the nagging suspicion that we have within each of us what it would take to make the world a better place.

Take two people from different ends of the spectrum and bring them together over a beer. It’s schlocky in premise but Publis has stuck a timely chord and are following this up with a Facebook chatbot (if someone can find the link, please post it in the comments) to connect people from different perspectives to talk their differences out as part of Heineken’s #openyourworld campaign.

via Upworthy

Penna – a retro bluetooth keyboard

 

In the pre-computer era, my father took a remote sales job that had him working out of the house in rural Connecticut. His company shipped him a large, elaborate machine which was an early version of an answering machine but the writing machine he bought was an refurbished Royal No. 10 .

Elegant in design, I marvelled at how it worked and the noise it made as the keys “thwacked” at the paper, impressing each letter into the page with the finality of the written word. The Royal produced correspondence.

Now on Kickstarter you can back a device that harkens back to the look and feel of those old manual typewriters. The Penna bluetooth keyboard is a thing of beauty.

A slot up top holds your tablet (iPad or Android) and low-power Bluetooth 4.2 allows the keyboard to operate off of two AA batteries and hold a charge up to six months on stand-by.

Check out the Kickstarter page for details. They’ve clearly spent a lot of time on getting the right look and feel. Chrome keycaps on the outside and high-quality Cherry keyswitches on the inside are all chosen for the best quality. The carriage return arm has been repurposed to record and play back custom macros.

People used to buy fountain pens, now they buy custom keyboards.

Elretron

Crib by Ford

When the little one refuses to go to bed, a common parental hack is to pop them in the car for a drive around town. The gentle purr of the engine and strobe of the passing streetlights will lull most infants to sleep giving mom and dad some R & R.

In what was either the product of an internal company hack day or elaborate April Fool’s joke, Ford España has come up with the perfect combination of design and technology to solve an age-old problem for drowsy parents of a newborn.

A speaker simulates the sound of your car and gimbels apparently rock the crib in the same way your car passes over bumps in the road. The LEDs that light up the rails to simulate streetlights passing by the windows is a brilliant touch but I think having a dedicated app to record your route and sync it to the crib is a bit much.

It’s still a prototype but sleep-deprived parents around the world have seen this and want one. Who knows, maybe Ford has tapped into a new line of business.

Adidas goes high tech

Adidas pushes 3D printing to the next level with their new Futurecraft 4D running shoe. The 3D-lattice sole is produced in partnership with Carbon that uses light as a “chisel” to blast cut the pattern rather than the traditional 3D printing methods. This light synthesis method allows for a much faster production time that Adidas plans to scale up to mass production by the end of next year.

danah boyd on fake news

I’ve hesitated to write anything about the fake news issue because I work at a company that is in the middle of it. SmartNews uses algorithms to curate the most important stories of the moment and we are constantly debating  how to best use the tools we have to discover, process, filter, and rank, filter, a “balanced” view of the world to our readers.

I’ve been frustrated with all the proposed “solutions” to the fake news problem because I appreciate the limits of technology and have great respect for human creativity.

danah boyd, ever a beacon of clarity on the intersection of technology and society, has written the post that had me nodding in violent agreement. Read it now. It’s the best thing I’ve read about where we are, how we got here, why past solutions will not work and the hard road ahead. Google and Facebook Can’t Just Make Fake News Disappear.

an excerpt (emphasis mine)

Even if the goal were to curb the most egregious lies for economic gain (or even just deception in business in FTC parlance), that conversation wouldn’t be quick or easy — folks forget that iterations in spam/SEO went on for decade(s) to get to the current status quo (which is still imperfect but less visible, especially to Gmail users and sophisticated American searchers). These are international issues with no good regulatory process or reasonable process to adjudicate what is real or not. Welcome to the high stakes game of whack-a-mole.

Try writing a content policy that you think would work. And then think about all of the ways in which you’d be eliminating acceptable practices through that policy. Next, consider how your adversaries would work around your policy. This was what I did at Blogger and LiveJournal, and I can’t even begin to express how challenging it was to do that work. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of images I saw that challenged the line between pornography and breastfeeding. These lines aren’t as clean as you’d think.

Although all eyes turn to Facebook, Google and other distribution points of the news they cannot flip a few switches and fix everything.

Technology is but a temporary routing algorithm for our motivations, a reflection, albeit supercharged, of our own cultural biases and societal divisions.

If we want technical solutions to complex socio-technical issues, we can’t simply throw it over the wall and tell companies to fix the broken parts of society that they made visible and helped magnify. We need to work together and build coalitions of groups who do not share the same political and social ideals to address the issues that we can all agree are broken.

A neighbor of mine is using private Facebook groups to “generate dialogue and engagement between divided communities” rewarding  “curiosity over confrontation.” (Spaceship Media).

Today I read about Alex Reinoso in NYC who is posting fliers around town with his cell number and email with the simple invitation. “Hi, I’m Alex. I’m a liberal. All my friends are liberal. My newsfeed is one-sided. Are you a conservative dealing with the same issue? If so I’d like to talk.”

Now that we have the means to connect and broadcast ourselves to anyone in the world, let’s now create technology that accelerates cooperation and amplifies empathy?

Everyone’s Neighbor on the Chopping Block

The late-Mr. Rogers melted hearts in 1969 before the Senate Commerce Committee stressing the need for publicly-funded educational television and defend funding for the nascent Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the main source of funding for PBS and NPR).

This speech is all the more poignant in light of the proposed elimination of CPB to help fund the expansion of the military and fund the proposed Trump wall in the latest draft budget.

h/t Mashable

Work for SmartNews!

We’re looking for a few engineers for our downtown San Francisco office. Primarily back-end with a strong background in backend development technologies.  The bullet points on the job posting say:

  • Coding experience in Java, Kotlin, or Scala
  • Experience operating and maintaining a JVM-based application
  • Experience developing on top of a web framework (e.g. Spring Boot, Ruby on Rails, etc.)
  • Working knowledge of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript
  • Experience with AWS
  • Experience developing and operating a high-traffic web service
  • Good understanding of JVM internals

That’s the baseline. There’s a coding test to suss out the knowledge and skills you’ll need to be an engineer at SmartNews. You will have a burning desire to change how we keep up with what’s going on in our world and how news is distributed from those who publish it.  That means you are original and creative – we don’t want to be just another socially-powered aggregator of feeds.

SmartNews SF office (the earth guy is our mascot Chikyu, he has a blog)

We do things differently. See that photo of our modern-looking lobby above? The wooden slats are bed frames from Ikea. The beautiful slab of redwood is repurposed from a fallen log harvested by my neighbor. We look for inspiration everywhere. We use familiar tools and materials in different ways to make something new, orthogonal.

People like to visit our office to learn about startups

Because SmartNews is not writing or producing news, we rely on our publishing partners to send us the most important stories every day. To do this, we built a product and business that brings new readers and revenue for our partners. We want those that publish great journalism to get exposure and succeed. Our goals are aligned with our partners.

If you have a passion for the future of news, live to scale and optimize infrastructures, and wouldn’t mind working with a international (Japan, Iceland, Iran, Argentina, and China) team of engineers (and occasionally visit the SmartNews HQ in Tokyo), drop me a line and send me your CV.

Our Harajuku Headquarters (it’s very swank)

For more, about SmartNews check out: