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

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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.

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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: 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! 

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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.

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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?  

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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 

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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.