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09.19.16 | 8:16 pm

Famed game designer Jane McGonigal, MoveOn, teaming up on anti-Trump game

As the presidential election draws tighter and tighter, it's clear that turnout may well help determine if the next resident of the Oval Office is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

The folks at, a nonprofit that has been promoting liberal and progressive political causes and candidates for years, feel that one of the best ways to help Clinton win is to ramp up turnout among millennials. That's why they've teamed up with Jane McGonigal, a famed game designer and author, on what, for the moment at least, is called Top Secret Election Game.

They aren't sharing a lot of details about the project yet, but the idea is simple: Lure undecided millennials into the political process and hopefully create thousands of additional votes for Clinton in key swing states, which they say will make the difference in her White House prospects.

The game is expected to launch around October 10.

06.28.17 | 3 hours ago

The kid-glove treatment of Justin Caldbeck is more proof that sexism and harassment in the Valley are endemic

The latest development on the Justin Caldbeck sexual harassment allegations offers more proof of how pervasive the problem is in VC. According to an old thread on a now-defunct app obtained by The Daily BeastSilicon Valley knew about sexual harassment allegations against Caldbeck for years. Here's an excerpt from the article:  

"Which male VCs tend to hit on female founders and trick them into dates?" a user on the anonymous app asked in August 2014. "I want to know who not to work with." 

The thread, discovered by The Daily Beast on Tuesday, disappeared when the app went out of business in 2015. But while active, the post quickly attracted over 200 comments, attracting the attention of technology publications and startup message boards, where users repeated the anonymous allegations of sexual harassment by venture capitalists including "Justin Caldbeck."

Turns out the sexual harassment allegations against former Binary Capital partner Caldbeck, who left his post this week, date back to when he was still at VC firm Lightspeed Ventures Partners, where he worked prior to cofounding Binary. 

Talk about an understatement. According to Axios, Lightspeed actively tried to bury the allegations against Caldbeck by asking the person who made the accusation—Stitch Fix founder Katrina Lake—to sign a non-disparagement agreement. (Axios obtained a copy of the agreement.) To make matters worse, Caldbeck's cofounder at Binary, Jonathan Teo, chose to work with him despite being aware of the allegations, as he revealed on Facebook

"When I chose to work with him to form Binary, I told him in no uncertain terms that no bad behavior was ever going to be tolerated at Binary . . . I made a big mistake in that from a professional context  . . . In the second year of our partnership, I had learned of some bad behavior from my partner, but it was evidenced to me that it happened prior to his time at Binary. And I kept my word that his past is the past and I would put it behind me."

[Photo: Denys Argyriou]

06.28.17 | 4 hours ago

Amazon’s Echo Show is already making Alexa skills way better—and more visual

With today's launch of the Amazon Echo Show, a handful of third-party skills have started taking full advantage of the device's touchscreen. Ask Alexa for movie suggestions from Fandango, for instance, and you can scroll through a list of nearby theaters, tap on the movie you want to see, and buy tickets. Set up a restaurant reservation in OpenTable, and all the details will appear in text before you confirm. Other Echo Show-optimized skills include Uber, All Recipes, CapitalOne, Bloomberg, CNN, and Jeopardy.

Those visual cues and touch controls are a big part of the Echo Show's appeal, but during our review period, they weren't available to the thousands of third-party Alexa skills that developers have created. As more developers optimize their skills for touchscreens, the Echo Show will become much more useful, and Alexa will become a lot more practical on other devices like car dashboards and smartphones.

06.28.17 | 12:58 pm

Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times with lawyers who also helped Hulk Hogan sue Gawker

Yesterday Sarah Palin filed a lawsuit against the New York Times, claiming defamation over an editorial that she says linked her to the 2011 mass shooting involving Gabrielle Giffords. According to the lawsuit, the article "falsely stated" that Palin encouraged the attack. The Times later issued a correction. While the lawsuit itself is interesting, there's something else noteworthy: the lawyers.

BuzzFeed's Ryan Mac tweets:

It seems like certain lawyers are creating a cottage industry for themselves in defamation lawsuits against the media. Hogan's other lawyer, Charles Harder, is now involved in a lawsuit against Deadspin. He also represented Melania Trump in a lawsuit against the Daily Mail. Free speech, beware. 

06.28.17 | 12:52 pm

Meet the hologram-making, NASA Singularity University alum who wants to reimagine theater

Theater geeks like me tend to recoil in horror when we hear about stage initiatives that incorporate a lot of technology, so I was skeptical when I heard about Patty Rangel's new R&D project at D.C.'s Arena Stage. Rangel, an accomplished holographer and NASA Singularity University alum, will embark on a year-long residency to experiment with a variety of new technologies—everything from life-size VR and AR to vibro-acoustics and gaming environments—that could one day be incorporated into stage productions.

It sounds overwhelming, but Rangel says the goal is infuse mixed-reality storytelling in a way that doesn't take away from the core theatergoing experience. In other words, she's not expecting audience members to strap on VR headsets or download Pokémon Go-style apps before a show.

"What I'm trying to do is make it a seamless integration of technology into the production design," Rangel tells me. "So it doesn't become about you taking out your phone and seeing a segment of the play in augmented reality. That's fun—it's a different type of user experience—but we're really trying to focus on the stories and the cohesiveness of the audience experience."

Rangel seems like the perfect person to pull this off. In addition to her tech background (her past work led to the creation of that Tupac hologram), she's also a graduate of the theater producing program at CalArts. And of course, Arena Stage recently brought us the social media-infused Dear Evan Hansen, which just won a bunch of Tonys. I'm looking forward to seeing what these folks cook up.   

[Image Courtesy of Patty Rangel] 

06.28.17 | 11:04 am

This map from Zocdoc shows which health benefits people search for most in different states

As you may have heard from every single TV, radio, and web outlet, Congress is fiddling with the Affordable Care Act, hoping to overhaul it completely, and according to the CBO leave some 22 million people without health coverage. Zocdoc decided to take a look at the health care services that people in each state are most anxious about to determine what they consider to be essential health benefits. They analyzed millions of searches from their medical appointment booking platform to figure out why people were visiting their doctors in each state. (Don't worry, they anonymized the search results so no one but your doctor needs to know about that weird rash that popped up after your last trip to the Piggly Wiggly). 

Zocdoc mapped the results, which could theoretically be used by senators to know what specifically is important to their constituents. For instance, senators from Texas may be interested to know that their voters are very concerned about pregnancy. Constituents in 11 states are very concerned about the state of preventive and well woman visits, while senators from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Virginia, and more should not touch mental health benefits. As for representatives from Illinois, they should probably make sure ADD meds are covered in the ACHA.

[Image: Zocdoc]

06.28.17 | 9:34 am

The New York Times’ best non-news service is going behind a paywall, and I am devastated

The New York Times has announced that NYT Cooking, its site and app for all things food, is going to use a subscription model. For $5 a month users can have unlimited access to its treasure trove of classy recipes. Instead of the interface now, where users can just open the app and search for recipes, they will be asked to log in. 

NYT Cooking is one of the best cooking apps around—it's wonderful for people unsure of what to make and looking for a variety of trusted suggestions. I browse it multiple times a week. This subscription model update means the end of the best free cooking app available, though non-paying subscribers will still have limited access.

I don't begrudge media companies for trying to figure out new monetization avenues, and this is surely a smart one. The Times went a similar route with its Crossword app, and I am sure more of its non-news spin-off services will see a similar fate. But one of the best parts about NYT Cooking was that it was free! And that anyone could use it! Alas, that era is no more. And my future cuisine will likely have much less of that Mark Bittman and Melissa Clark je ne sais quoi. 

[Photo: Toa Heftiba]

06.28.17 | 8:58 am

Stephen Colbert doesn’t want Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop to have all the fun annoying NASA

Stephen Colbert may have gotten Donald Trump to call him a "no-talent guy," but Gwyneth Paltrow was called out by NASA—and Colbert is kinda jealous. On Tuesday night's episode of The Late Show, Colbert took aim at Paltrow's lifestyle and wellness brand Goop, its recent conference (we were there!), its jade egg for—well, watch the video—and its body vibes wearable stickers that promote wellness. "Previously, if you wanted wearable stickers that promote healing, you had to buy a box of Band-Aids," Colbert joked. While the stickers were dubbed "a load of BS" by a former chief scientist at NASA, Goop's website explains the science behind them with a fork analogy. "Yes, Goop has apparently consulted with top fork scientists to create these stickers," Colbert said. "So what Goop is saying is, Buy these stickers and go fork yourself."

To get in on the wellness action, Colbert announced he was expanding Covetton House, the spoof lifestyle brand he founded in 2015, to include a "health tape" called glu-ü, imported from the Bavarian village of Duct, and when paired with "energy pods" can help anyone with leaky chakras. It may sound ludicrous, but as Colbert pointed out with 22 million people poised to potentially lose health care coverage if the Republicans pass their health care act, "Folks are going to have to look for alternative medical treatment like prayer, or being rich, or praying to become rich"—or, you know, look to the experts at Goop.

06.28.17 | 7:58 am

The Petya ransomware attack has gone global

The virus first appeared in Europe, South America, and the U.S. before spreading to India, where it shut down India's biggest container port. Now there are signs that the virus is spreading in China, reports Bloomberg. Petya is ransomware that encrypts a computer's hard drive and then demands the computer's owner to pay $300 USD in bitcoin to decrypt the files. However, the Guardian warns that affected computer users should not pay the ransomware as the "customer service" email address associated with the payment destination has been shut down, so there's no way to receive the decryption key.

06.28.17 | 7:17 am

Low demand for Blue Apron IPO 

Meal kit Blue Apron has lowered the price range for its upcoming public offering. In an updated prospectus, the company lists the maximum offered price per share at $11. Previously it was listed at a range of $15-$17. The new price suggests low demand for Blue Apron stock. 

There are a number of factors why investors may not be interested. One, Blue Apron pays a very high cost to acquire customers. Secondly, there is a ton of competition and no clear winners. Third, meal kits may not be shaking up to be the grocery disruptors they were purported to be. While customers are increasingly becoming comfortable ordering food online, subscription packages of portioned ingredients and recipes don't provide the full spectrum of grocery needs. And they're inflexible to changing schedules (like when you're out of town for the week). Such challenges prompted us to ask early on: Will Blue Apron even exist in five years?   

06.28.17 | 6:37 am

Vivo just pulled the rug out from under one of the iPhone 8’s biggest features

The Chinese smartphone maker has shown off the first smartphone using a fingerprint sensor embedded in the display. At their booth at MWC Shanghai, the company showed off a prototype of its Xplay6 that's fitted with Qualcomm's under-display fingerprint sensor, reports Engadget. A display with an integrated Touch ID is rumored to be one of the key new features of the iPhone 8, which should debut in early September.

[Image: Apple]

06.28.17 | 5:59 am

Uber now lets you book rides for loved ones

The ride-sharing app now allows users to request rides for other people, such as elderly parents, by setting their pickup and drop-off points. Once you've selected who the ride is for, Uber will text them with the information so they know when the ride is on its way and has shown up. Your loved one will also be texted the phone number of the driver so they can call them if they wish. In a blog post, Uber says they unveiled the new feature to address mobility challenges of an aging population:

Seniors are concerned about losing their mobility as they age, and their loved ones can feel overwhelmed when managing the senior's transportation needs. Furthermore, today nearly 10% of the global population consists of people aged 65 and over, and that number is only expected to increase. Keeping these insights top of mind, we've been thinking about ways to make our app more accessible to everyone in the family.

[Image: Uber]

06.28.17 | 5:33 am

That’ll be $700,000 to open a restaurant in San Francisco

At one point or another, most people have probably at least flirted with the idea of opening up some kind of eatery, but not many of us have sat down to consider what it would actually cost. That's why Eater shadowed one man's two-year journey of opening his own omakase restaurant in the Bay Area. Here's what it cost from the inception of the idea to opening day:

• Consulting: $25,000

• Rent and utilities: $84,269

• Architecture: $34,500

• Permits: $22,100

• Construction, kitchen design, and equipment: $298,800

• Furniture and equipment: $37,585

• Design, artwork, and smallwares: $59,953

• Branding and public relations: $23,900

• Labor and fees: $38,988

• Opening food and alcohol: $26,000

• Contingency: $50,000

• TOTAL: $701,095