Facebook Goes After Your Coins on Messenger

And By ‘Coins,’ We Mean Money Transfers on Messenger 

Facebook Messenger just thought of a new way to remind you when you owe someone money. According to the The Verge, the social network is testing out what we’re calling a new ‘pay back feature.’

messenger

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re chatting with your friend about a recent night out. During the convo, someone drops words like ‘IOU’ or ‘ you owe me.’ Facebook’s feature with the help of chat assist and machine learning will pick up on those words or similar phrases.  The feature will then prompt you or your friend to make a payment right then and there.  While the feature does this automatically, it’s up to each party to decide whether they want to settle their debts right there on Messenger or keep their ‘IOU’ status a bit longer.

Just another sign that Facebook’s trying to get deep into the payments game. The company didn’t stop there. It’s also introduced group chat polling to help planning nights out with friends a bit easier.  Turn all the way up tonight or do something more chill and low-key? That could be the question.

U.S. Facebook users are in luck because both features are only available Stateside – for now.

What do you think? Good move by FB or completely unnecessary? Tell us what you think in the comments or take our poll!

Virtual Skinny: We Made It!

9.20.2016

Good to Know: ‘Skittles are candy; refugees are people’ – Statement made by Wrigley, the makers of Skittles, after Donald Jr. tweeted a meme comparing refugees to skittles. Add that to the long list of things not to do in politics alongside posting a question to Reddit about how to strip a ‘VERY VIP’s’ email address from archived e-mails.  

skittles refugee tweet

MAMA, WE MADE IT!


Hope your week is starting off as awesome as ours. We’re happy to announce that the Virtual Skinny turns 1 this month! Thank you for keeping up with us. Celebrate by helping spread the word about us to your friends! Please ask five of your closest friends to join the fun and subscribe at thevirtualskinny.com

party

THE SKINNY


When You Say Yes to DriveRless …

The Obama Administration just gave a thumbs up to self-driving cars with some gentle guidance. Yesterday, President Obama penned an Op-Ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to talk about it. (Fun Fact: Pittsburgh is also where Uber’s testing out its self-driving fleet).

When This Isn’t A Free for All …

This week, the U.S. Transportation Department issued guidelines on how driverless cars can strike the right balance between being a cool, new innovation while keeping people safe on the road. But, how? The focus is less on specific regulations (Think: seat belt laws) and more on best practices like how driverless cars should respond when the technology fails, protecting passenger privacy, and protecting passengers during a crash. The government’s also looking to get data on companies’ latest systems and crashes that occur. It’s all part of the 15-point safety standard.

When You Hear Something …

That’s the sound of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets advocacy group applauding this move by the U.S. government. Its members are the usual suspects: Google’s parent Alphabet Inc., Ford Motor Co., Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., and Volvo Car Corp. Tesla Motors is noticeably missing.

When You Draw The Line Somewhere…

The Obama Administration made it clear. It’ll leave things like driver’s licenses, car registrations, traffic laws, insurance, and legal liabilities to the states to handle. But, the federal government has marked its territory when it comes to laying down any law when it comes to driverless cars. 

When You’re Looking to the Future …

Director of the National Economic Council Jeffrey Zients said the future will have us all saying ‘look ma, no hands’ while freeing up commuters to relax or get some work done. Way more productive than the occasional road rage. Zients says autonomous cars ‘will save time, money, and lives.’  Ride-hailing service Lyft is right there with him. The company’s president John Zimmer predicts that most Lyft rides will be in self-driving cars by 2021.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


When You Hit the Panic Button …

Over the weekend, New York and New Jersey got a major scare. First, an explosion went down in New Jersey near the a charity race (luckily no one was injured). Then, another in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. This time 29 people were injured but not seriously. Authorities sent out a ‘loud’ emergency alert to NYC residents’ smartphones letting them know to look out for the suspect – 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami. He’s since been apprehended. Investigations are under way. Meanwhile, Uber is getting slammed for surge pricing right after the NYC explosion. And, angry Internet users are leaving negative reviews of First American Fried Chicken (Rahimi’s family-owned restaurant) on Yelp.

chelsea

When There are exceptions to the rules …

Skittles are to refugees as bitcoin is to dollar bills. In other words, the U.S. federal government has been pretty clear that bitcoin isn’t ‘legal tender’ aka ‘real money.’ But, that’s not a hard and fast rule. There’s one exception. Bitcoin is considered money if it’s involved in a financial crime. Anthony Murgio learned that the hard way. Murgio is alleged to have illegally run Coin.mx, a bitcoin exchange involved in the cybercrime ring that targeted firms like JPMorganChase. Prosecutors brought two charges against Murgio. He tried to be slick by using the ‘bitcoin aren’t funds’ argument. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan didn’t buy it and said that Murgio’s charges still stand. 

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


Let’s get social …

Twitter’s finally allowing its users to send out longer tweets. You’ll still have 140 characters to say what you need to but images, videos, GIFs, and polls won’t count.

Facebook’s showing more signs that it’s getting serious about its #NextBillion users. The company just brought on Anand Chandrasekaran, formerly of India e-commerce startup Snapdeal, to help lead the company’s efforts on Messenger. 

Is It Time for Another Vacation, Yet?

Google Trips is a new mobile app to help planning each day of your upcoming trip a little easier. Need information on day plans, reservations, things to do, or food & drink? It’s gotchu.  

When You’re Still Shopping Around…

Facebook has always got something going on. This time, it’s focusing on hardware. The company just bought California startup Nascent Objects, creators of the ‘first modular consumer electronic platform.’ That’s nerd speak for creating a space where average non-techie folks can design and test out new products at low costs. 

Google snatched up API.AI, a company that helps build Siri-type bots that can have decent chats with humans in 15 languages including English, Chinese, French, Spanish, and German. 

In Other Good News …

Larry Ellison isn’t mincing words. Oracle’s gearing up to take on Amazon in the cloud services game. The company plans to take an aggressive approach. 

School’s back in session. And this fall, 2,000 schools in the U.S. will offer AP Computer Science courses. #ThanksObama 

The United Nations’ released a mini-documentary called Clouds Over Sidra about a young Syrian refugee. The organization quickly found out that virtual reality (VR) headsets are the ‘the ultimate empathy machine.’ VR helps people feel more connected to a subject, then they feel compelled to donate funds. 

HELLO WORLD!


AirBnb just bought Barcelona-based startup Trip4Real, offering a marketplace for activities during your next vay-cay. 

South African Internet firm Naspers is getting into the online classified ads game Stateside. It’s going after Craigslist – big time.

WOD (WORD OF THE DAY)


The ‘Cloud’: AKA ‘cloud computing’;  Not an actual ‘cloud’ involving condensed water vapor. But rather, the term refers to storing information on servers that are housed in remote data centers. We can access information pretty easily via the InterWebs (think DropBox). And now, businesses are getting in on the cloud because it’s reliable, secure, and cost-effective. Businesses aren’t settling for just storing their information in offsite locations. They’re also moving towards running applications and services directly from the cloud! #TheMoreYouKnow

Virtual Skinny: Friday Alert!

9.9.2016

Good to Know: The U.S. FAA just hit the red alert button on Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. Don’t even think about turning it on during a flight on account of its explosive batteries.  Exhibit A.    

explosion

THE SKINNY


When You Make the Effort …

AirBnB is stepping its anti-discrimination policy game all the way up.  

When You’ve Been Exposed …

In Dec. 2015, Harvard University hosted its very own #ExposeParty when it dropped a bombshell of a report calling out some exclusionary behavior taking place on AirBnB.  The paper said that users with ‘African-American- sounding names’ had a hard time simply booking reservations. It’s the ole “we’re booked for those dates” excuse. #AirbnbWhileBlack

exposed
When You’ve Gotta Move Quick …

Can you say damage control? AirBnB brought in heavy-hitters like former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former director of American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office Laura W. Murphy to give their two cents on what it can do to reduce discrimination on its platform.

When You Want to Hear Solutions …

Murphy put together the 32-page report with some practical fixes. Starting Nov. 1, users must agree to treat others on the platform fairly and sans bias. Other things will happen like ‘instant booking’ so people can make reservations without first getting approval from the host. And, AirBnB plans to focus less on users’ photos and more on objective information on people’s profiles.

When You’ll Wait and See…

Verdict is still out on whether these changes will actually work. Mixed reviews from advocacy groups and even from founders of competing startups targeting people of color. But, it all raises a bigger question of Internet companies’ role in changing social attitudes and perceptions.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Out with the Old, In with the New …

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants to make your cable TV watching a little easier. This week, the agency put out its final proposal on those expensive cable boxes. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler doesn’t want your cable provider (think: Comcast) to force you to rent pricey cable boxes. He’d much rather the provider offer an app for people to stream content on their device of choice (Apple TV, Roku, etc.). Wheeler says the change would be good innovation. The agency is set to vote on the proposal later this month (Sept. 29). Who knows? The cable industry may finally catch up to 2016. #SorryNotSorry

Trying to Stop A Moving Train …

Fun Fact: For many years, the U.S. oversaw the basic operations of the Internet. But like most good things, that is coming to an end. The U.S. plans to transition its oversight duties to ICANN. Formally, known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The nonprofit group deals with the Internet’s daily operations. The transition is supposed to go down October 1st, but some Republicans aren’t having it. Four top Republicans just sent a letter to the Obama Administration basically saying that the switch won’t be going down on their watch. Reason for the opposition? They don’t want the U.S. to “giv[e] up control” of the Interwebs. The Internet and broader tech community says that’s not the case. The community sees it as a positive for the Internet’s global support. Republicans probably don’t have the votes to stop the transition, but it’ll at least make for good political drama heading into election season this fall.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


The 90s comeback game is so strong. Super Mario is coming to the iPhone. mario

Alphabet (formerly known as Google) is teaming up with Chipotle to deliver burritos via drone. Virginia Tech will be the first test-site because it’s FAA approved. 

You can now hail a ride from Lyft or Gett directly from Google Maps

Norway is calling out Facebook for removing its Prime Minister’s post of the Pulitzer-prize winning ‘napalm girl’ photo during the Vietnam war.

Snapchat just hired Morgan Stanley to take out a new line of credit. The Information is reporting that the company’s gearing up for an IPO. Maybe, maybe not … 

MAKING MOVES


While we’re on Snapchat, the company just hired former White House strategic communications advisor Rachel Racusen. Racusen is Snapchat’s new Director of Communications . 

WOD (WORD OF THE DAY)


IPO: Known as ‘initial public offering.’  The first time when a private company releases stock to the public. Reasons for an IPO vary (e.g., to raise money to grow the company more or to allow the company’s owners and employees to make money off of their company stock).

Virtual Skinny: Wednesday Wisdom

9.7.2016

Good to Know:  Here’s your Wednesday Wisdom. Working on a startup? Look for venture capital money? At the very least, avoid these 11 things to up your chances of success. 

THE SKINNY


When Christmas Comes Early …

Today is Apple Inc’s annual product launch event in San Francisco.

When You Know What to Expect …

Ever since Apple sent out its “See You on the Seventh” invites, the blogosphere’s been abuzz about what’s likely to go down today. One word: iPhone 7. The latest iPhone is said to have minor changes from the ‘6’ version with things like a touch sensitive home button. The major change: No headphone jack. Apple has gone wireless so you can listen to your jam or watch your fave show without wires getting in the way. 

When You Don’t Know It All …

Unclear how much the ‘7’ will go for in terms of price. Other than the phone, there’s rumbles about a new Apple Watch version but not much has been leaked about it. Gotta keep some things close to the vest …

When Patience Is Still A Virtue …

With no major changes to the ‘7,’ analysts are feeling underwhelmed. They suggest that you wait it out till next year for the ‘8.’ Next year’s the 10th anniversary of the iPhone so they’re predicting major changes like ‘a wider display that reaches from one edge of the device to the other.’ In the meantime, the new iOS 10 software update is bringing us less text and more visuals in iMessage (i.e., stickers, funny faces, animated balloons, etc).

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Summer’s Over …

Time to get serious.  Twitter’s board of directors is huddling up this Thursday. On the agenda? To sell or not to sell. Twitter’s been struggling to perform well. In other words, it’s trying to grow its user-base and bring in more dolla bills. Co-founder and board member Evan Williams said the company needs to “consider the right options.” Looks like the options are selling to whoever can afford an US $18 billion company (Google, Apple, 21st Century Fox or News Corp. could be potential buyers). Option B? Another round of staff layoffs. The struggle is real …

This Was Not Part of the Plan …

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg surprised everyone when he headed to the continent. And by the continent, we mean Africa. The Zuck’s first stop? Lagos, Nigeria where it was biz mixed with a bit of fun: He visited a kids coding camp called the CcHub, had a Q&A with local entrepreneurs, sat down to dinner with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, and even crashed a Nigerian hip hop video set. Zuckerberg said ‘Nigeria’s tech story is “under-appreciated across the world.” But, some local techies aren’t buying it. They are unimpressed by Zuck’s visit and want FB to build a true partnership with Africa’s tech community.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 9.51.37 AMScreen Shot 2016-09-07 at 9.53.58 AM

 

Please Tell Me More…

Looks like Zuck’s got big plans for Africa, but he learned during his trip that he had a f*@# problem. Back stateside in Florida, a SpaceX rocket ship exploded and took down one of FB’s satellites used to beam high-speed Internet to Africa. Yikes!

It’s Not Translating …

According to reports, “democracy,” “human rights,” and “hunger strike,” are not in the Cuban government’s vocabulary. The government’s been blocking people’s text messages containing those words. Unclear how long this alleged filtering has been going on … 

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


Snapchat’s ditching its ‘local stories,’ the features that let’s you see what’s happening in big cities. It’s cut the ‘small team’ responsible and is now eyeing live events as a replacement. 

You’ll soon be able to search the Google machine by outfits. The upcoming feature, “Shop the Look,” will pull up outfits published by fashion bloggers in search.

Pandora plans to launch two new music services (US $10 Spotify type service so you and your tunes will always be together whenever and wherever & US $5 that’s a slight upgrade from its free web radio). Still waiting on when the official public announcement will go down since Pandora’s still trying to finalize things with music label partners. 

Box (the business version of DropBox) just worked on a collabo project with IBM called Box Relay to custom build work processes. 

WOD (WORD OF THE DAY)  


Demonetization: Think YouTube. The process of not allowing certain YouTube videos to make money off of ads because of its ‘unfriendly’ content. The company’s been in the demonetization game since 2012, but YouTube video makers didn’t know about it until last week. Turns out YouTube’s software isn’t perfect, and some legit and friendly videos got caught up in the mix. Unfortunately, some YouTube video makers haven’t been making their ‘pay-pah.’

Alba Joins Techie Reality Show for Non-Techies

alba gwyn will

Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and will.i.am are all attached to Apple’s Planet of the Apps. The trio will serve as mentors and advisors on the upcoming reality show.  But, the tech community is not happy about any of this.  Here’s what you need to know:

What is the Planet of the Apps?

Business Insider describes the show as a cross between singing competition show The Voice and startup pitch show Shark Tank. The gist of the show? App developers bring their ideas to fruition, judges pick what they like, then mentors help guide contestants through the process.  Seems more of a cross between Shark Tank and Project Runway to us, but as they say, ‘to-may-to, to-mah-to.’ #MakeItWork

More on ALBA, PALTROW, AND WILL.I.AM’S ROLES?

The show’s official website called on app creators with the following:

“Join us on the search for the next great app in a new original series. Those selected will have the chance to receive hands-on guidance from some of the most influential experts in the tech community, featured placement on the App Store, and funding from top-tier VCs.”

Tech Community Isn’t Here for It …

Apparently, the tech community isn’t here for Jessica Alba or the rest of the trio. Their beef probably has to do with the ‘most influential experts in the tech community’ part. TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet is almost everyone in the tech community when he writes: “I don’t think any of these hosts are qualified to talk about design, engineering or even growth strategy when it comes to releasing a new app on the App Store” (To be fair, Dillet does recognize Alba’s the Honest Company. But, we should also mention that Paltrow runs a digital lifestyle publication called Goop, and will.i.am is the Director of Creative Innovation for Intel – who knew?).

Not Everyone’s on the Same Page…

Others don’t share Dillet’s perspective.  Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, a Menlo Park-based venture capital firm with portfolio companies like Snapchat, sees things a little differently. He told Variety that “[c]onsumer technology has become popular culture, as our portfolio companies like Snapchat have demonstrated … We’re excited to work with Apple and visionaries from the tech and entertainment space to discover and enable the next generation of apps that will also become popular culture.” 

What’s Next?

Planet of the Apps is done with its casting call and will begin filming in Los Angeles later this year and into early 2017. The show will be available exclusively on Apple Music or the Apple TV. Other than this reality show, Apple’s also working on CarPool Karaoke made famous by James Corden on “The Late Late Show.”

Penny for Your Thoughts?

We gotta ask: When Planet of the Apps comes out next year, are you in or nah? Tell us in the comments!

Goat App, Marketplace for Shoes, Raises $5 Million

GOAT aka ‘Greatest of All Time’ isn’t just a phrase in one of Drake’s lyrics or a nod to athletes with undeniable talent and accomplishments, it’s also the name of one the hottest sneaker apps.

Created by Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano as a last-ditch ‘hail Mary’ after a few other failed startup attempts, GOAT is basically Nasty Gal (at its core an e-commerce site for vintage clothes) for shoes. The app is a resale marketplace for people to buy and sell ‘rare sneakers.’ The difference between GOAT and other marketplace platforms? GOAT steps in an intermediary to inspect buyers’ ‘merch’ for quality before it’s delivered to their doors.

goat

According to Recode, during Black Friday 2015, GOAT launched a pretty ballsy strategy to get people to download the app. It offered impossible to get shoes – Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 350) – at a discounted price. Naturally, chaos ensued. So many sneaker-heads bombarded the app until it crashed.  Harsh words from potential app users + 10,000 potential sellers on your waitlist = Mission accomplished!

GOAT just raised $5 million and is looking to transition its wait listed sellers into active users without skimping on quality of service. It’s also looking to make a little bit of profit sooner rather than later.

Check out a video below of a GOAT user’s review of the app. He seems pretty happy about it. What about you? Would you use this app? Tell us what you think in the comments.

 

Virtual Skinny: Stand Up for Your Rights

8.30.2016

Good to Know: Need to manage paper business cards? Mobile apps CamCard and ScanBizCards could help.

THE SKINNY


When You Take People Out GoT Style …

Last Friday, Facebook axed its Trending Topics team of humans with almost no warning. #Savage

When You Need An Explanation …

A little while back, FB was all up in the headlines for its alleged human bias in the type of stories picked up by Trending Topics. Some said the stories leaned more left than right, especially when it came to political news. Naturally, U.S. Republicans stepped in. As far as we knew, it was water under the bridge. But, not quite.

When You’ve Taken A Stand …

You may have noticed that Trending Topics no longer shows short summaries of news article. Instead, you just see the number of people talking about a topic. Well, that’s because FB decided it was better to swap out human editors for algorithms (Algorithms: Rules that tells computers what to do). The justification? FB said it’s listening to its community. And, the move “allows [FB] to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time.” 

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.57.39 AM

When You Can’t Fact Check …

Within about 48 hours of computers taking over Trending Topics, FB ran into some … issues. What had happened was its algorithms picked up a fake news story about Megyn Kelly being fired. Not true, Megyn Kelly is still gainfully employed by Fox News. Whoops!

When You’re Being Dragged …

FB removed the fake story, but it’s still not immune from being dragged via Twitter because some people can’t stand the change. BTW, the Zuck says it has no plans to transition from tech to media.  Journalists are calling B.S. because FB is a master at selling its users’ attention to advertisers. Could a potential #JournalistsFurtherExposesFBParty be brewing on the Twitterverse? 

IMG_7784

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


B*tch Better Have My Money …

The European Union (EU) warned Apple not to call it on its bluff. In today’s ruling, the EU ordered Apple, Inc. to hand over a record US $14.5 billion (13 billion Euros) in back taxes to Ireland. This whole drams comes down to the EU believing that Ireland played faves with Apple with it came to taxes. To be clear, the EU is saying that Ireland gave Apple tax benefits for the past two decades. And, under EU law, this type of special tax treatment is a major no-no. Apple is understandably peeved about the decision. Ireland’s got Apple’s back and plans to appeal. Even, the U.S. government has piped up and is basically saying that the EU’s decision is no bueno and could hurt US-EU biz relations and even turn potential foreign business away from the EU. 

Is This Happening Or Nah?

Everyone expected a tech bust about a year ago, but it didn’t happen. HOW, Sway? We get the confusion. This time a year ago, investors were throwing money at on-demand delivery start-ups and Uber like one of Oprah’s giveaways. A crash seemed like a sure thing, but then startups got smart and started saving more and spending less on things like perks. Also, foreign investment money from countries like Saudi Arabia helped. A tech crash could still happen but probably not any time soon.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


Amazon’s work schedule (especially for its technical team) is no joke … Soul crushing even. The company may finally be making a change. It’s testing out a 30-hour work week with a portion of its technical team (Monday through Thursday from 10 AM to 2 PM). The experimental group will still get the same benefits as everyone else, but they’ll be getting paid 25% less.  

Twitter is trying to do what Instagram just did to Snapchat. The microblogging site is following in YouTube’s footsteps. It wants to reward its most popular users with cash money if they create video content for the site. Twitter’s offering its top users a 70% (content creators) -30% (Twitter) split in revenue – a better deal than YouTube’s 55%-45% split. Not sure if the deal will help bring in creators though since YouTube and other similar platforms are so far ahead in the game. 

MAKIN’ MOVES


Uber said “you can’t sit with us” to Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond. Since Uber and Google are actively working on self-driving projects, Drummond decided to step down from the ride-hailing company’s board. 

Virtual Skinny: Open Up!

8.26.2016

Good to Know: Need to kill some time on a Friday? Google ‘solitaire’ or ‘tic-tac-toe’ and get your game on…Enjoy! 

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 10.08.51 AM

THE SKINNY


When You’re Doing An About-Face …

Messaging app WhatsApp was hell-bent on protecting its users privacy, but things change.

When You’re Not Selling Out Completely …

To be fair, WhatsApp isn’t completely going back on its word. It just announced that it’ll be sharing ‘limited data’ (including phone numbers) with Facebook, it’s parent company. In case you forgot, FB bought WhatsApp for a whooping US $22 billion back in 2014.

When You’re Not Sure Why This Is Happening …

There are a number of reasons for the change. Better friend suggestions is one … Getting better FB ads and just having a better experience with the app generally are others … And, even helping businesses offer better customer service is also on the list. In other words, WhatsApp need to make money.

When You’re Trying to Be Open …

WhatsApp understands that this privacy policy change doesn’t look good, but it wants users to know that it’s encryption game is still hella strong. But if you’d rather be excluded from this narrative all together, you’ve got a couple of options. You can opt-out right away or within a month if you’ve already agreed to the app’s new terms.

landscape-1468872336-taylor-swift-excluded-narrative

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’?

This week, rapper Frank Ocean released his long, looooooooong awaited album called, Blonde. Ocean released his latest work independently and got his work to the masses via iTunes and Apple Music. Turns out this is a nightmare scenario for record labels. If artists aren’t happy with their record label contracts, what’s stopping them from putting out music on their own then turning to music streaming services for distribution? Well, the answer is nothing (assuming the artist is no longer under contract). Record labels are shaking in their boots. We’ve even heard that Universal Music Group is banning ‘streaming exclusives’ for its artists. Ocean’s the first to break away from a major record label and do something like this. Now the question is … Who’s next? Bey? Drake?  How much longer before music labels are a thing of the past?  

frank-ocean-blond-compressed-0933daea-f052-40e5-85a4-35e07dac73df

See Something, Say Something …

Before we all started hating EpiPen maker Mylan for it’s ridiculously high prices for the live-saving allergy treatment, actress Mellini Kantayya learned about the whole thing via her Facebook friends back in July. Kantayya launched an online petition called ‘Stop the EpiPen Price Gouging, which went viral. Then, others jumped in on the ‘social’ discussion. Robyn O’Brien, founder of AllergyKids.com, started the ‘EpiGate’ hashtag. And just like that, the #EpiGate turned into one of the biggest news stories of the summer. Never underestimate the power of social media…

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


Presidents and Wanna Be Presidents …

Check out this 11-minute video and President Obama’s Yosemite National Park visit in VR (formally known as virtual reality). The video is courtesy of Facebook-owned Oculus and VR content studio Felix and Paul Studios. Or skip the video and check out the President watching himself in VR. 

President Barack Obama watches a virtual reality film captured during his trip to Yosemite National Park earlier this year, in the Outer Oval Office, Aug. 24, 2016. Personal aide Ferial Govashiri sits at her desk at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama watches a virtual reality film captured during his trip to Yosemite National Park earlier this year, in the Outer Oval Office, Aug. 24, 2016. Personal aide Ferial Govashiri sits at her desk at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

These days you gotta meet people where they are … That’s why Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are forking over $$$ for ads on Snapchat. Video ads are where it’s at to reach America’s youth.

Cars You Drive and Those That Drive Themselves…

Somehow Uber managed to drain US $1.27 BILLION dollars in just 6 months. In Uber’s world, it’s literally a drop in the bucket. Price competition from Lyft and drivers’ subsidies are partly to blame. Speaking of Uber drivers, retirement plans are in their future (sort of). Uber’s linked up with robo-advisor Betterment to set up drivers with IRAs or Roth IRAs.

When you did it first … Singapore’s nuTonomy just became the first company to get the world’s first self-driving taxis on the road. Still in test mode but still a very big deal. Uber and Google are working on it but aren’t there yet. 

Add Amazon to the automotive list. It’s launched a new hub to help those in the market for new rides compare specs, prices, and get smart before making a purchase. It’s all about building that ‘automotive community.’

How to Avoid Being Hangry …

More on Amazon … It’s taking a cue from Walmart. Shop groceries with the online retailer and then pick up your loot at a nearby drive-in location. No more wasting time by waiting for those deliveries at your door. Yay! That’s the plan at least… Amazon’s still testing things out.  

Southern Global Hospitality…

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for home sharing service AirBnB as of late. It’s been dealing with some heavy subjects like racism and discrimination on the app. But, not every host on the app is a jerk. Over 300 hosts are taking in people for free that have been devastated by the natural disasters in Italy, Louisiana, and Cali. It’s all part of the company’s disaster response program. #GoodWork

Keep Me Entertained …

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. First Instagram, now Apple.  The iPhone maker is working on a video feature reminiscent of Snapchat.

Pandora just got a new partner, and it makes sense. The Root’s Questlove and the music streaming service are doing a lil collabo called “Questlove Supreme,” a weekly radio show. The ‘black nerd version of NPR’ kicks off on Sept. 7.

Introducing Fans.com, a social network for all things concerts. 

So, North Korea’s apparently working on a Netflix-type service called ‘ManBang.’ Interesting move since a ton of North Korean citizens aren’t even allowed to access the InterWebs. Things that make you go hmmm…

So Not Entertaining …

Internet trolls truly outdid themselves this week. If you remember, not too long ago the Cincinnati Zoo had to unfortunately take down Harambe (one of its gorillas). People were outraged and started trolling not only the zoo but it’s director on social. Things got so bad, the zoo said ‘screw this, we’re out.’ It got off of social.  

Things went from bad to worse when we learned that also this week, Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was hacked. It’s been a rollercoaster summer for the celeb who was the target of vicious racist attacks on Twitter. We thought things calmed down, but that was a mistake. Hackers got access to some explicit pics of Leslie and her passport info then posted them to her official website (complete with racial remarks). The website’s been taken down, other celebs rallied behind Leslie, and the Department of Homeland Security is investigating. #DoBetter 

MAKIN’ MOVES


Tech magazine Wired is losing another exec. Mark McClusky turned in his two-week notice and will be heading back to Sports Illustrated to run its digital division.

Virtual Skinny: Inter-Webs…

8.23.2016

Good to Know: Time to celebrate … The Inter-Webs turn 25 years old today! Still waiting on that quarter-life crisis. 

happy bday

THE SKINNY


When You’ve Turned Over a New Leaf (Sort of) …

If you’ve been following U.S. politics, then you’ve probably noticed that Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump is trying to do better. He’s trying to stay on script and talk more policy. Top of the list? Immigration

When You Still Want to Build That Wall …

Trump unveiled his immigration plan last week, and it went further than just building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. He talked a lot about “extreme vetting” for those wanting to immigrate to the U.S. 

When You’re Not Sure What This Means …

‘Many people’ are wondering (see what we did there?) what this meant for H-1B work visas, which is a big deal in the tech world. It’s unclear, but Trump has said in the past that he would want to reform the H-1B program to stop ‘rampant abuse.’ He’s even called out Disney as a major culprit.

When You’re Confused… 

Meanwhile, Silicon Valley and the tech world are still not feeling Trump even with his new approach. With the exception of entrepreneur Peter Thiel, even Silicon Valley Republicans are staying clear of the Donald. They’re either backing down-ticket candidates. throwing their money at Hillz, or sitting the election out all together. #InterestingTimes 

confused

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Nope, Not On My Watch …

Google, Facebook, and Twitter are not pleased with a proposal from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The agency thought it would be a good idea to ask foreign U.S. visitors arriving on visa waivers to voluntarily hand over their social media account info. It’s all in the name of id-ing potential terrorists. Internet companies said ‘no way Jose.’ The proposal would spell major trouble for social media and free speech generally in the U.S.of A. Not to mention, it would send the wrong message to other countries that they should do the same. #SorryNotSorry

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


What to do after retirement? Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant retired from the NBA this year. Now, he’s getting into investments. Bryant and his partner Jeff Stibel announced that they’ve launched a US $100 million venture capital fund called Bryant Stibel. They’re looking to invest in tech, media, and data companies. Not really a surprise, Bryant and Stibel have been lowkey investing in companies since 2013. 

Tired of your Spotify or Pandora? Amazon’s stepping into music streaming service ring. The service is still in the works, but rumor has it that it’ll cost around US $5/ month. Oh and there’s a catch, the service will only work with Echo hardware aka ‘Alexa.’ Now that Alec Baldwin/Missy Elliott commercial is starting to make sense. #PepRally 

Ride-hailing service Lyft wanted out of the biz. It tried to sell to the likes of Uber and for US $9 billion. But, Uber said “too rich for my blood” … It was willing to do $2B and not a penny more. It wasn’t just a money issue … CEO Travis Kalanick didn’t think it’d be a good idea on account of the Feds (i.e., antitrust issues). 

While we’re on Uber, ICYMI, it’ll start letting real people into its self-driving cars. To be specific, it’ll start by testing out 100 Volvos in Pittsburgh, PA. But don’t worry, there’ll be a human at the wheel in case things start to go left

Daydream is no longer falling asleep beneath the flowers. It’s the name of Google’s new service for virtual reality films and programs. The company’s throwing millions of dollars at the service and at Inter-web stars for content. 

MAKIN’ MOVES


Amazon Web Services former marketing vet Adam Selipsky is going to be the top guy at software company Tableau.

Dropbox CFO Vanessa Wittman is walking away from her post due to health reasons. She’ll be replaced by financial deputy Ajay Vashee in September. 

Virtual Skinny: Extra, Extra!

8.16.2016

Good to Know: Extra, Extra! Read all about it … The Virtual Skinny is happy to announce a brand new section called ‘Guide Me! We know tech and Internet stuff can be a lot so we want to help you dig a little deeper.  Check out our latest infographic. If there’s something you want to know more about, drop us a line at founders@thevirtualskinny.com or “at” us (@virtual_skinny).

THE SKINNY


When You Need to Have A Difficult Conversation …

Turn to Twitter. According to a Pew Research Center study, A LOT of tough conversations about race have happened on Twitter over the last year.

When Things Are Changing …

Social media (Twitter in particular) has really shifted how people engage in ‘big cultural conversations.’ No more water cooler talk. Social platforms are the new hot spot for intimate chats.

When Everyone Needs to Engage …

The numbers show that black people (1 in 4) are more likely to engage in discussions about race than white people (1 in 12) on social. Subjects where race comes up ranges from the presidential election to major current events. Remember Freddie Gray, Charleston Church Shooting, Sandra Bland, and even this year’s Grammys?

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.05.10 AM

When You Gotta Sound Off…

To what extent do you think these tough conversations on social media will have an impact on race relations and culture in America? Let us know what you think in the comments!

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


When You’re being extra … 

Internet entrepreneur Peter Thiel isn’t letting up on the whole Gawker scandal. ICYMI, Thiel was pissed at the online media company for outing him before he was ready to publicly come out as a gay man. They say revenge is best served cold … or by later secretly funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker for releasing some explicit footage of the former wrestler. Hogan, bankrolled by Thiel, won the case and forced Gawker’s bankruptcy. Thiel then gave a speech at this year’s U.S. Republican National Convention. And now, he’s put pen to paper for a New York Times op-ed on the importance of maintaining individual privacy in a digital world. He’s even touting a new bill in U.S. Congress called the ‘ Intimate Privacy Protection Act’ aka the ‘Gawker Bill.’ Thiel says the bill, which would make it illegal to share private, illicit images of someone online (aka revenge porn), is supported by both parties. He says it’s all about maintaining ‘individual dignity online.’ But, Recode thinks otherwise. They say Thiel is trying to be the judge and jury of what journalism is and should be. #JournalismWars    

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


Apple is throwing money at China and wants to do more research and development in the country. 

baby

AirBnB’s got the whole home rental thing down. Now, it’s moving into new territories for your traveling needs; namely – restaurant reservations and city tours. Say hello to ‘AirBnB Trips.’ It’s just in test mode for now. But, expect the new app to be ‘off-isch’ this November. 

Speaking of trying out new things… Snapchat wants to get into Google’s original biz of search. The ‘disappearing chats’ app just bought search and discovery app Vurb that let’s you figure out what’s around you. Vurb relies on things like Yelp reviews to help you make decisions. The purchase price? About US $100 milli. #ChumpChange

The bad news is Google’s finished and done with Hangouts on Air. Other than President Obama and Pope Francis, who knew Google had a live streaming service? #KanyeShrug The good news? It’s hit to ‘restart’ button on its approach to messaging with ‘Google Duo,’ a new video app alternative to FaceTime. Works with both iOS and Droids.

Amazon’s got plans for its original content. Jill Soloway, creator of award-winning Transparent, is working on a musical comedy for Prime. The company’s tapped the Office’s John Krasinski to play Jack Ryan for an upcoming original series. And, Amazon’s giving its original shows away for free via Facebook and YouTube.

While we’re on things to watch, we’re looking forward to the release of Hidden Figures, a film about three black women mathematicians who broke barriers at NASA in the 60s. It stars Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer. #HistoryLessons