Virtual Skinny: Who Run The World?


WOD (Word of the Day): Artificial intelligence is an area of computer science that focuses on creating ‘intelligent’ computers that have human-like reactions. Yup, just like you see in the movies. 



When You Need to Diversify …

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) dropped a discrimination lawsuit against data-mining startup Palantir Technologies. Fun Fact: Palantir’s software helped track down Osama bin Laden right before the U.S. took him out. #TheMoreYouKnow 

When You Need to Know More …

Turns out that the DOL found that Palantir has been turning away Asian applicants from engineering gigs in droves. The agency says Asian applicants were ‘routinely’ weeded out during initial stages (i.e., résumé screening and telephone interview). #PlotTwist 

When This Isn’t What You’re Used To …  

Cisco exec Barry Gee says discrimination cases involving Asians in Silicon Valley isn’t the typical storyline (these cases usually involve black and Hispanic applicants) though he admits Asians do get shut out of management roles. 

When Things Are Unclear …

So far, specific numbers to back up the DOL’s allegations are unclear. In the meantime, Palantir is denying any wrongdoing. And, the company should hope things are on the up and up because any findings of wrongdoing could cancel its federal contracts worth US $340 millie.


When You Want to See Results …

The larger tech industry continues to struggle with diversity across the board (underrepresented minorities, women, etc). The industry’s taking a page from the National Football League’s (NFL) playbook. Tech and Internet companies are applying the ‘Rooney Rule’ to help up their diversity numbers. How does it work? Companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, and Microsoft are using the rule to make sure that at least one woman or underrepresented minority is interviewed for a position. Could help bring in a more diverse applicant pool, but companies shouldn’t get it twisted. It’s not just about getting people interviews. The issue runs much deeper. #UnconsciousBias  

How to Not See Results …

Investor and serial entrepreneur John Greathouse thought he was giving sound advice to women in tech when he advised that they ‘create an online presence that obscures their gender’ (e.g., use your initials for  job apps or when seeking startup funding). Greathouse said women should create a ‘neutral online presence’ to avoid gender-bias.  Studies apparently show that men are less likely to find female names likeable. Greathouse learned very quickly what happens when a good deed goes wrong. Many women and some men were not having it, and immediately responded with comments, posts, blogs, etc. See here, here, and here. Moral of the story: Not a great idea to suggest workarounds a problem without making suggestions to solve the actual problem. Greathouse has since apologized. We gotta ask: Despite the backlash, does Greathouse have a point until the larger problems are fixed? Sound off in the comments!


Who Run The World?

Melinda Gates wants girls to run the tech world. She’s now turning her attention to the lack of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math). Gates, who earned a computer science degree from Duke and previously worked at Microsoft for a decade, is concerned that the percentage of women in computer science has plummeted from 37 percent to 18 percent since the ‘80s. Her plan is to assess the problem before deciding where resources should go to bring solutions. #StrengthInNumbers  

Switching Gears …

First India and now Germany.  If you’ll remember, people were not happy when WhatsApp announced that it would start sharing its users’ data with Facebook. German regulators just threw a flag on WhatsApp’s play. They say German users didn’t give the go ahead on any of it, which violates its data protection laws. The regulators want Facebook to stop collecting WhatsApp data and to hit the delete on all German users’ data collected already. Facebook plans to fight Germany on this. The company probably keep its defenses up because Italy is giving the company major side-eye on the same issue. 


Looks like folks aren’t sold yet on self-driving cars. New Kelley Blue Book survey found that 80% of survey participants said we should “always have the option to drive themselves;” 64% need to be in control of their own vehicle; and 62% just enjoy driving.


Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft have partnered up to make moves on artificial intelligence and come up with best practices for it. #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork 

Salesforce just threw a wrench into Microsoft’s plan to buy LinkedIn. The company is asking European regulators to put the kibosh on the deal. Something about the deal will be a threat t’o future innovation and competition.’

Snap, Inc. formerly known as Snapchat is out with its ‘Snapchat Spectacles’ complete with a wearable camera. They’re going for US $130. Add that to your holiday gifts list. 


Loads of content plus a social platform could equal a potential Disney acquisition of Twitter. The social media platform lost a controversial user. Venture capital investor Marc Andreessen decided to call it quits on the Twitterverse. He’s apparently feeling ‘free as a bird.’ #PunIntended 

Music streaming service Spotify has also got buying on its brain. Soundcloud could be it’s next target. If it works out, it’s music to Soundcloud’s ear since the company’s been struggling and looking for a way to exit stage left. Meanwhile, Spotify’s finally saying hello to Japan, the world’s second largest music market (worth over US $2.5 billion). #BetterLateThanNever 

Queen B (aka Beyonce) just made her first foray into tech with a US $150,000 investment in Sidestep, an app for buying concert ‘merch’ that also helps you head straight to the counter to pick up your new swag. 

What Was Trending This Week … 

Mary J. Blige can add host to her resume. Mary’s hosting ‘The 411’ on Beats 1. This week, she interviewed Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton then the R&B singer sang to Hillz about police brutality. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but check out the full interview here. Happy Friday!


The Virtual Skinny: Surprise, Surprise


Good to Know:  We all know what it’s like to have the case of the Mondays but turns out that people actually hate Thursdays more according to posts on the Whisper app. 


Yikkity Yak, Don’t Post That … 

Using anonymous messaging app Yik Yak to post racial threats is a pretty terrible idea. Just ask 19-year-old, Missouri University of Science and Technology student Hunter Park.

What Went Down? 

Park took the app and allegedly posted a message threatening black students and faculty at the University of Missouri (Mizzou), the sister campus to Missouri University of Science and Technology. The actual words used were “I’m going to shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready.”  Umm… terrifying … Black students fled campus before police arrested Park on suspicion of making terrorist threats.

Posters Beware … 

College kids are very into Yik Yak, but most of them probably didn’t read the fine print. The app says it can hand over users’ information (e.g. Internet protocol address, GPS coordinates, date and time of message, etc.) to police if there’s a subpoena, court order, or search warrant involved. But, all that paper work isn’t needed in the event of an emergency like death threats.

Not the First Time …

Park’s threats along with some others surfaced on Yik Yak after Mizzou’s President and another senior university official were forced to step down.  Their departure came after weeks of protests calling out the university’s handling of students’ concerns over racial incidents on campus. The app has a history of users’ posting these types of messages. In recent weeks, a few arrests have been made on college campuses across the U.S. for similar threats by other students.  Yik Yak founder Brooks Buffington says the app is not meant for this type of behavior. 


Paying Your Fair Share …

AirBnB was fired up when it scored its major “W” by shutting down San Francisco’s Proposition F, which would have been bad news bears for short-term rentals.  But now, the home-sharing service is taking things down a notch. This week, the company’s out with what it’s calling the “AirBnB Community Compact” to mend relations with local governments. AirBnB is willing to pay taxes, share unidentified data on its hosts and guests, and banning illegal hotels for participating on the platform.

When Someone Tries To Put You in a Box … 

“Don’t do it,” says Chinese Internet company Alibaba.  The company thinks it can do better and is looking to expand its empire.  Alibaba is getting into U.S. territory by throwing money at high-tech U.S. startups. The company also wants to export goods from U.S. small and medium-sized businesses over to China.  Btw, the company’s setting the record straight … It’s no e-commerce company. Instead, it wants to help other businesses compete with the Amazons of the world.

We Still Need Confirmation … 

The U.S. and EU are working hard to figure out a deal that will allow American companies to transfer Europeans’ data back to the States.  The EU may have some new stipulations. EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says it may want American companies to turn over reports detailing just how many times U.S. intelligence agencies are reaching out to them and inquiring about EU residents. You know, just to double-check that things aren’t getting out of hand.


Social media company Facebook’s out with its new “breaking news” feature called Notify. You get your pick of what type of news you want to see from over 70 publishers.

Apple wants you to be able to make instant payments to your friends. It’s rumored to be working with banks to figure out a mobile peer-to-peer payment service.

Ride hailing app Uber wanted to get Nokia Maps in its corner to improve its navigation service, but things didn’t work out.  Uber has moved onto navigation company TomTom and worked out partnership deal.

Online music streaming service Spotify’s trying to get you to the next big show with concert recommendations curated just for you.

IAC/Interactive Corp, owner of brands like OkCupid and, wants to add Angie’s List, reviewer of local businesses, to its collection via a merger. Angie’s List is thinking things over.

LinkedIn knows it sends way too many emails and is working on a tool to fix that. Internally, the tool is known as Air Traffic Controller.