• 08.17.17

#TBT: Lollapalooza edition with Hippo Campus and Frenship

Fast Company was on the ground at Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park earlier this month. The stacked lineup included Chance the Rapper, Lorde, Tegan and Sara, Run the Jewels, Zara Larsson, and way more. In this special Lolla-themed #TBT, we revisit two artist Q&As in tandem with Red Bull TV.

Hippo Campus

Fast Company: How do you overcome creative roadblocks?

Jake Luppen (vocalist): We get out the N64 and smash it. You need to take a break sometimes.

Nathan Stocker (guitarist): It really dilutes any sort of negative vibes. You play and then it’s over with; it’s done.

FC: What would you say the Hippo Campus brand is?

JL: Minnesota is pretty central to our brand, where we’re from. We get associated with that quite a bit.

NS: We also don’t want to clearly define it because it’s always changing. It’s like water: There’s no shape.

FC: How do you solve differences within the group without damaging your dynamic?

NS: There’s a skill set we’ve had to adapt to where we have to respect each other’s privacy and opinions. We’ve learned to respectfully disagree and be honest about it without any sort of tension. It doesn’t matter what you think; it’s how you think it.


Fast Company: What’s your creative process like? Where do you find inspiration?

James Sunderland: Feelings, probably more than anything. I think a lot of our songs start as—and this is a clichéd verb—a vibe. It sounds stupid, but “Capsize” started out like that.

Brett Hite: I think the more interesting part of our creative process is a little bit more down the road. That’s when it becomes unique. When you’re revisiting and editing your original idea, you have to acknowledge that something doesn’t feel right. It’s that balance between being creative and critical.

FC: What is the Frenship brand?

BH: Inclusive. Very inclusive.

JS: It’s lighthearted and fun, but also thoughtful. We give off campfire vibes.

FC: How do you solve differences within the group without damaging your dynamic?

BH: Fistfights and kisses on the cheek.

JS: We have pretty different personalities, but I think we speak pretty bluntly with each other. If we don’t like something, we bring it up. Things get hashed out fast before they become a thing.

BH: It’s a skill you have to learn.DT

  • 08.17.17

You can now make a DIY soundtrack for your trip to TRAPPIST-1

Are you planning a trip to TRAPPIST-1, searching for new exoplanets, or working on some sweet infographics about Earth-like planets that are 39 light years away? If so, we have the soundtrack for you.

Space nerds Matt Russo (a postdoctoral researcher at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics) and Dan Tamayo (from the University of Toronto’s Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics), and musician Andrew Santaguida, have created a website called “TRAPPIST Sounds,” and it’s open for anyone to use to create an interstellar beat (and has nothing to do with Trap music). As Vice reports, the web tool lets astral-musicians play each of the seven Earth-sized worlds that are orbiting around TRAPPIST-1, which the creators call “the most musical system ever discovered.” The website matches each planet with a piano notes whose pitch is “determined by the planet’s actual orbital frequencies, scaled up so that they can be heard by human ears.” A drumbeat will drop every time one planet overtakes an adjacent world. Composers can fidget with the tempo and monitor the acoustic resonance of their space compositions, too. Don’t be alarmed if your composition sounds slightly out of tune, though, as it’s actually the system’s natural state after “billions of years of tidal forces” knocked it out of key.

The website is part of a larger project called SYSTEM SOUNDS, which “aims to try to convert as many things in space into music as possible,” according to Russo. Composing a heartfelt ode to the stars is a much easier way to share our affection for space than trying to send an Edible Arrangement to Neptune.


  • 08.17.17

Here’s where you can get AAS-approved solar eclipse glasses

Here’s where you can get AAS-approved solar eclipse glasses
[Photo: NPS Photo by Neal Herbert via Wikimedia Commons]

If you’re planning on staring at the sun during the solar eclipse on August 21, you’re going to need to either a) prepare to have your retinas burned or b) grab some ISO-compliant safe solar eclipse viewing glasses.

Your first stop in the pursuit of solar eclipse glasses should be your local library. Thanks to support from NASA, Google, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, 6,900 libraries across the U.S. have been given solar eclipse glasses to hand out for free, according to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) website. Check the map here to see if your local branch received any of the glasses.

If your local library is all out, head either online or to the store. Purchasing approved specs has been complicated by some vendors doling out counterfeit—or at least unapproved—glasses. Amazon has been issuing refunds to anyone who bought unapproved glasses through their site. If you’re not sure, AAS has a  list of recommended eclipse glasses vendors who are selling the real deal.

It’s also pretty easy to pick up glasses while grabbing a Slurpee or a bag of Cheetos on your way to the Path of Totality because 7-Eleven is on the list of AAS-approved official retailers of solar eclipse glasses:

  • 7-Eleven
  • Circle K
  • Kroger
  • Love’s Travel Shops
  • London Drugs
  • Lowe’s, Pilot/Flying J
  • Toys “R” Us
  • Hobby Town
  • Kirklands
  • Best Buy
  • Bi-Mart
  • Casey’s General Store

Also, Warby Parker is reportedly handing out free solar eclipse glasses at its retail outlets.

If you’re striking out everywhere, there are a few work-arounds. Watch NASA’s live-stream of the eclipse or, according to an expert who spoke with Time, if you can’t get your hands on glasses, eclipse enthusiasts can also feel free to hold a colander up to the sky, as apparently that will project an image of the sun, and the eclipse, on the ground and not look weird at all. Perhaps Pastafarians have been preparing for this moment their entire lives.ML

  • 08.17.17

The New York Times just discovered bubble tea, which has been around for decades

The New York Times just discovered bubble tea, which has been around for decades
[Photo: ugurv/iStock]

While not quite on the level of pea guacamole (yet), a recent New York Times article is raising eyebrows. Originally titled “The Blobs In Your Tea? They’re Supposed To Be There” (although the headline has since changed), the piece chronicled the rise of boba tea–a well-known and delicious drink.

First, it’s important to note that bubble tea isn’t new or exotic–it’s a drink that has been prominent in Asian communities for decades and widely available to everyone else for about that long as well. Couple that with the fact that the original headline was pretty tone deaf, and you can get why some readers are scratching their heads. Now some have begun tweeting their own versions of the title.

Here are a few of the tweets responding to the piece:


  • 08.17.17

WeWork hires Apple exec as it fills out its executive ranks

WeWork continues to fill out its executive ranks, possibly in preparation for a future IPO. Today, the company told press that Shiva Rajaraman, who previously worked on video projects at Apple, has joined WeWork as its chief product officer.

CEO Adam Neumann said in July his company will go public, but he’s been mum about when. Still, an IPO seems like it might be just on the horizon. In the last year, the company has been busy reorganizing its executive ranks. In January, WeWork brought on former Brooklyn Bowl head James Woods to head up WeLive, the company’s furnished and time-flexible residential spaces. It also hired Richard Gomel, who once lead acquisitions and development for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, to manage its coworking business. In May, WeWork hired Spotify’s VP of Engineering, Laurent Paris, to be its first CTO.

It’s also shuffling around executives. In July, the company promoted former general counsel and chief culture officer, Jen Berrent, to COO. Previously, CFO Artie Minson was occupying a sort of dual role. Now he’s focusing all his attention on WeWork’s financial growth. Already, the company has announced it’s on track to earn billion-dollar revenue this year. And WeWork recently took a $500 million investment from Softbank and others.

All these changes come as WeWork has shifted its model from simple coworking spaces to a whole suite of residential and work services. No longer just a landlord to small businesses and startups, WeWork has revamped itself as an ally to large corporations, helping them to open new offices and manage existing ones. This puts WeWork in a position to not only expand, but to prove defensibility to investors down the road.RR

Spotify jumps on the anti-white-supremacy bandwagon, pun intended

The domino theory in tech seems to go like this: If one company takes a stand, the others will all follow suit. We are now seeing this happen with white supremacist online content, which, in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville rally, is being blacklisted by numerous tech organizations. Today Spotify confirmed that it would take down bands and other music acts that espoused white supremacist/nazi-leaning content. Before that, companies including PayPal, Facebook, Squarespace, Airbnb, and even Cloudflare all announced they would take action to not help disseminate hate.

As I wrote yesterday, the myth of the neutral online platform is finally crumbling.CGW

Amazon Alexa goes to college

Amazon Alexa goes to college
[Photo: Charlie Leight/ASU Now]

The largest engineering school in the country is betting on a big role for voice controls in the future of computing. In a partnership with Amazon, Arizona State University’s engineering school will offer three undergrad classes this semester on building skills for Alexa and other voice assistants, and will incorporate voice applications into its undergrad research and community service programs. Arizona State is also building its own Alexa skill for looking up campus info. And to sweeten the deal for engineering students, those who live in a new high-tech dorm on campus will be able to get a free Amazon Echo Dot.

The tie-up is another example of how tech titans are fighting for developer mindshare in the escalating virtual assistant wars. Just as mobile platforms lived and died by their app support, platforms like Alexa and Google Assistant need third-party voice skills to survive. By working with Arizona State, Amazon’s trying to win over potential developers before they’re even out of school.JN

  • 08.17.17

Layoffs hit Mic as digital media’s “great video pivot of 2017” continues

Layoffs hit Mic as digital media’s “great video pivot of 2017” continues

It’s now a well-known media punchline that if a newsroom experiences layoffs, the rationale will probably be because the company is “pivoting to video.” This is what happened to Vocativ, Vice, and MTV News earlier this month.

Now Mic is added to the mix; the millennial-focused media company is laying off between 20 to 30 editorial staff members as part of a larger company restructuring, reports Business Insider. And, what do you know, a lot of this structuring has to do with video.

“We made these tough decisions because we believe deeply in our mission to make Mic the leader in visual journalism and we need to focus the company to deliver on our mission,” said the company in a memo to staff, which was later published on Mic.

The layoffs are often spun as a simple business exigency: Things needed to change as the media landscape has evolved. The truth is that the media business is being squeezed, and executives only know how to follow the money in the short term. As I wrote two months ago, a pivot to video means a bow to Facebook, which along with Google controls the lion’s share of the digital ad market. If these two tech companies change their tunes about what types of content they’re going to prioritize, these pivots will be all for naught.

Which is all to say that this feels like putting a band-aid on a problem that only a stem-cell transplant can fix.CGW

  • 08.17.17

That viral photo of an antifa protester assaulting a police officer is fake

A startling image that seems to show a member of an anti-fascist group beating a U.S. police officer with a club during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been making the rounds of the internet over the last few days. There’s one thing you should know about it, though—it’s fake.

Snopes, the internet’s respected fact-checker, quickly debunked the photo. Turns out the picture was snapped by a Getty Images photographer during a clash between police officers and protesters in Athens, Greece, back in 2009. Some jerkface (technical term!) used their Photoshop skills to slap an “antifa” or “antifacist” logo on the jacket of the protester and an internet myth was born. As the photo circulated among Trump supporters and other far-right groups, it helped bolster claims that “both sides” of the gathering were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, as President Donald Trump claimed in his statement about the incident. Thankfully, Snopes was on the case.


  • 08.17.17

The Economist’s Trump-KKK cover pulls no punches, and neither does the story

Bet someone’s not renewing their subscription to the Economist. The weekly magazine appears to have had quite enough of Donald Trump, thank you very much. It published a story today declaring the president to be “politically inept, morally barren, and temperamentally unfit for office.” He’s probably not invited to sit at their lunch table, either. The magazine’s bluntness is not unprecedented—after all, this is the publication that featured Kim Jong Il on the cover under the headline “Greetings, earthlings“—but it’s especially blunt in this case. The cover features an illustration of Trump yelling into a bullhorn shaped like a KKK hood. It’s part of a pattern, though: Unflattering Trump-themed covers have been pretty common for the Economist since January.


  • 08.17.17

Hackers took over several HBO Twitter accounts, including the official Game of Thrones account

The hacking group OurMine briefly took over not only the main HBO Twitter account but the official accounts for some of its shows, including Game of Thrones, reports BetaNews. The Twitter hack comes as what is believed to be separate hackers dumped materials from the “4th Wave HBO Leak” online, which included Westworld season 2 shooting schedules and Game of Thrones season 7 shooting diaries. HBO soon regained access to their hacked accounts, but not before OurMine sent them a message on the official GOT Twitter account: “OurMine are here. we are just testing your security. HBO team please contact us to upgrade the security – -> Contact.”MG

  • 08.17.17

Baidu’s former chief scientist Andrew Ng is setting up a $150 million AI fund

The fund will help enable Ng’s goal of bringing about an AI-powered society, reports TechCrunch. It’s not yet known what type of AI startups the fund will invest in. Before setting out on his own as a VC Ng founded the Google Brain Team and has long been an evangelist of the benefits of AI.MG

  • 08.17.17

Netflix will spend a whopping $7 billion on content next year

Coming just a day after news broke that Apple would be spending $1 billion to create or obtain original programming in the next 12 months, Netflix today announced that in 2018 it will spend seven times that amount, reports Variety. Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos told the publication that it will spend $7 billion in 2018 on content. However, Sarandos says the “vast majority” of the $7 billion is for licensed content, but its spending on licensed and original content could be split 50/50 in “a couple years.”MG

  • 08.17.17

Facebook shut down an anonymous employee forum run by Trump supporters after harassment issues

The internal company forum was called Facebook Anon, and it was created in May 2015 as a way for employees to freely discuss subjects about the Facebook workplace. However, the forum soon became a hub for political discussions and was increasingly used by Facebook employees who were Donald Trump supporters, reports Business Insider. Facebook had no problem with the political slant the forum took on until the users of the forums began to frequently harass other users and make comments of discrimination and hate. One anonymous commenter claimed Facebook’s code had suffered because the company “lowered the bar to attract female engineers.” After harassment became more commonplace in Facebook Anon, Mark Zuckerberg decided to shut down the forum for good in December 2016.MG

  • 08.17.17

Apple pulls Apple Pay support from white supremacist websites

The company has cut off support for Apple Pay on three white supremacist websites that sell hate-related merchandise. The websites in question sold “sweaters with Nazi logos, T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase ‘White Pride,’ and a bumper sticker showing a car plowing into stick figure demonstrators,” reports Buzzfeed. One of the payment methods the sites allowed for was Apple Pay on the web. The move came shortly before Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the events in Charlottesville in an email to employees.MG

  • 08.17.17

Tim Cook’s Charlottesville email to Apple employees: “Hate is a cancer”

Tim Cook’s Charlottesville email to Apple employees: “Hate is a cancer”
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Deerkoski]

The Apple CEO sent an email to employees about the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend that saw one woman killed at a white supremacist rally, reports Buzzfeed. In the email, Cook said “hate is a cancer” and that he “disagree[s] with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights.” Cook also announced Apple will give $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. You can read his full email below:


Like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values. The events of the past several days have been deeply troubling for me, and I’ve heard from many people at Apple who are saddened, outraged or confused.

What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country. Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world. We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point–that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect. I believe Apple has led by example, and we’re going to keep doing that. We have always welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world and showed them that Apple is inclusive of everyone. We empower people to share their views and express themselves through our products.

In the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organizations who work to rid our country of hate. Apple will be making contributions of $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. We will also match two-for-one our employees’ donations to these and several other human rights groups, between now and September 30. In the coming days, iTunes will offer users an easy way to join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” So, we will continue to speak up. These have been dark days, but I remain as optimistic as ever that the future is bright. Apple can and will play an important role in bringing about positive change.




  • 08.16.17

Amazon lost $5 billion in value after a sort-of accurate Trump tweet

All it took was 137 characters at 6:12 a.m. for Amazon’s valuation to drop more than $5 billion on Wednesday.

It wasn’t much of a dent for Amazon, which is still worth a whopping $474 billion. (The company’s stock fell by $4.56, or less than 0.5%.) Overall, its stock price has soared since Trump entered office. And this was far from the first time Trump has accused the company of tax avoidance (he’s previously said CEO Jeff Bezos operates a “no-tax monopoly” that fails to pay “internet taxes.”).

Amazon’s stock price on Wednesday [Image: Google]
Putting aside the irony that the president has declined to release his own tax returns, this whole event is notable for a few reasons.

First, the implication is not quite accurate: As we’ve noted beforeAmazon now pays sales taxes in every state in which it operates for the products it sells directly. In its latest annual report to the SEC, it said it paid $177 million in income taxes in 2014, $273 million in 2015, and $412 million in 2016. As to the company’s negative impact on retail jobs (and other companies’ stocks for that matter) it has recently begun hiring for more than 50,000 positions across the U.S.

Two, the Trump tweet comes as Amazon is fielding a challenge to its third-party merchant taxes policy, which leaves tax collection up to the merchants. A complaint filed this summer by South Carolina’s Department of Revenue alleges that Amazon didn’t collect taxes on sales made by third-party vendors to the tune of more than $12 million in taxes and penalties for the first quarter of 2016. (In total, it’s estimated that $23 billion in state taxes go uncollected.) A Supreme Court ruling says a retailer must have a physical presence in a state for that state to collect taxes. A ruling in South Carolina’s direction could pave the way for more rulings in other states. In other words: Trump’s tweet isn’t entirely bogus.

Three: Is this, in some way, the result of the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post regularly taking Trump to task? I’ll leave that up to you.

Read more: Why Amazon Is The World’s Most Innovative Company Of The Year and Why It’s Time To Break The Company UpPM

  • 08.16.17

Ride-hailing roundup: Uber’s non-valuation, GM’s new app, and more

There’s been lots of news in the world of ride hailing this week.

Uber is experimenting with several new features for drivers, including a system for alerting drivers when a rider is requesting an especially long trip before they accept, and the ability to choose destination areas. A few Uber drivers included in the pilots posted images of the potential new tools on and Reddit. The tests come during a 180-day period in which Uber has promised to make its platform better for drivers. The company has faced backlash from drivers over wages and working conditions.

While Uber tries to win over drivers’ hearts, General Motors is contemplating its own ride service, according to Reuters. The company is currently gathering data through its rental-car service Maven, which loans cars to consumers, and Maven Gig, which loans cars for ride-hailing networks. That would put the company, which is also developing self-driving cars, in competition with the likes of Uber and Lyft.

In other Uber news, tech investor Roger McNamee tells CNBC the company is probably not worth $69 billion. And according to recently released records in the Waymo vs. Uber battle, the former head of Uber’s autonomous division, Anthony Levandowski, once proposed starting a #FakeTesla social media campaign. In texts to then-CEO Travis Kalanick, he wrote, “We’ve got to start calling Elon on his sh-t.”

“I’m not on social media but let’s start ‘faketesla’ and [sic] start give physics lessons about stupid sh-t Elon says like this.” The texts are a reference to Tesla’s self-driving technology, which, unlike competitors, doesn’t use lidar.RR

  • 08.16.17

Watch Barack Obama’s record-breaking Charlottesville tweet spread around the world

Watch Barack Obama’s record-breaking Charlottesville tweet spread around the world
[Animation: Talkwalker]

Miss him yet? Former President Barack Obama set a record today with an inspirational tweet in the wake of the violent white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion . . . ” the tweet read, quoting from Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. It was sent on Saturday and turned out to be especially poignant in light of the fact that our current president has proven himself unable to articulate a similar sentiment.

The tweet is now the most “liked” tweet ever on Twitter, having racked up more than 3.7 million of those little heart icons as of Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, social media analytics company Talkwalker came up with a cool animated gif that visualizes how the tweet spread around the world in the hours and days after it was sent. If nothing else, it’s a nice reminder that not everything is awful.CZ

  • 08.16.17

Everyone was quitting Trump’s manufacturing council, so he shut it down

Everyone was quitting Trump’s manufacturing council, so he shut it down
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Can’t say we didn’t see this coming. President Trump tweeted today that he’s ending his American Manufacturing Council and Strategic and Policy Forum. The move comes after a number of CEOs this week quit the council over Trump’s refusal to explicitly denounce white supremacist groups. Trump did denounce such groups in a prepared speech on Monday, but at an off-the-cuff press conference on Tuesday, he doubled and tripled down on his argument that “many sides” were to blame for this weekend’s violence and unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Most recently, the CEOs of 3M and Campbell Soup both said they were leaving the council, and more than a dozen more were on the brink, according to CNBC. Trump, you might recall, campaigned on his strengths as a businessman and frequently promised to restore the manufacturing sector to its former luster.


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