Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

11.04.16 | 12:24 pm

No ballot selfies for New York and California, say judges

People who hate selfies will love voting in two of the biggest states on Tuesday. Judges on both coasts have upheld state bans on people taking photos of themselves with ballots at polling places in California and New York. In California, a new law will make ballot selfies legal, but it does not take effect until January 1. U.S. district judge William Alsup denied a petition by the American Civil Liberties Union to impose a temporary restraining order on the soon-to-end law.

On the East Coast, District Judge P. Kevin Castel argued that the need to protect voters supersedes free expression concerns. New York city and state bans on showing a person with their marked ballot go back 126 years—even longer than the Cubs' World Series dry spell. The intent is to protect voters from intimidation efforts, and violation is punishable by a misdemeanor charge. 

Part of Judge Castel's reasoning was that the petition for injunction comes too late—filed just 13 days before Election Day:

"A last-minute, judicially imposed change in the protocol at 5,300 polling places would be a recipe for delays and a disorderly election, as well intentioned voters either took the perfectly posed selfie or struggled with their rarely-used smartphone camera."

The last part belies a lack of familiarity with selfie fanatics.

06.22.17 | 17 minutes ago

BuzzFeed’s NYC office may or may not be infested with bedbugs 

Well, this tweet from BuzzFeed's media reporter isn't disconcerting at all:

Bedbugs, while a disturbingly common problem in New York, are still the stuff of urban nightmares. Hopefully the issue is exterminated swiftly. My thoughts will be with all BuzzFeed—or BugzFeed (I'm so sorry)—staff who may or may not be carrying the insects. Good luck, but please stay away from my apartment. 

06.22.17 | 39 minutes ago

Farfetch is about to drastically amp up its China operations

JD.com, which Recode describes as the "Amazon of China," has just invested nearly $400 million into the luxury e-commerce retailer Farfetch. JD.com founder and CEO Richard Liu will also join Farfetch's board. This will drastically amp up Farfetch's presence in China, which is already the world's largest luxury market. 

Farfetch is shaping up to be a powerful force in luxury e-commerce. Last week, Condé Nast International announced that it would be killing off its e-commerce site Style.com and, instead, investing $20 million in a partnership with Farfetch. 

[Photo: Igor Ovsyannkov]

06.22.17 | an hour ago

Qatar Airways may buy a stake in American Airlines just to mess with them

Qatar Airways plans to dole out $808 million to buy a 10% stake in American Airlines, making the state-owned airline one of American's largest shareholders, Bloomberg reports

It's an interesting strategy for the Doha-based airline, which has been suspending flights to Middle Eastern neighbors as tensions in the region grow. American has accused Middle Eastern carriers of unfair competition in international air travel. It argues that state subsidies allow the carriers to offer lower ticket prices on international flights.  According to Bloomberg, American said the proposed investment doesn't change its stance on the issue and hopes the U.S. government will protect the U.S. aviation industry against what it sees as shady practices. Qatar Airways' move is also interesting in the wake of the Trump administration's seeming indecisiveness on Qatar, having both accused Qatar of harboring and funding terrorists, and then selling it $12 billion in fighter jets, and then accusing Middle Eastern nations of being unfair to Qatar for failing to justify their embargo on the nation.

[Photo: Wikipedia]

06.22.17 | 2 hours ago

From Facebook to Slack, civic engagement just got a little bit easier

Behind the reality-show circus of political scandals are the hidden technical and bureaucratic happenings that most affect our work and lives. To help people keep on top of them all, San Francisco company IFTTT has announced a slew of new automatic update services that expand on a pilot program launched in March.

Short for "if this, then that," IFTTT is a point-and-click tool that allows people to string together online services and trigger actions based on specific criteria. For instance, if the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning for a country, you can trigger it to send the info to a particular email address. That's one of 40-plus of pre-built scripts that IFTTT released today, tying information from mostly U.S. government agencies and other organizations into services like email, Google Sheets, Evernote, Slack, Facebook, and Twitter. Other examples include automatically:

* Entering new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis into a Google spreadsheet

* Sending email updates when ClinicalTrials.gov announces new  trials for diabetes or cancer treatment

* Posting new Department of Labor monthly employment data to project-management app Trello

* Tweeting the latest news from the EPA for a specific topic, like air pollution

* Saving FCC press releases to read later in bookmarking app Pocket

* Saving environmental information from the National Science Foundation to filing app Evernote

* Sharing SEC investor alerts with coworkers in chat app Slack

* Posting Department of Agriculture food recall news to Facebook or Twitter

There are some more down-to-earth ones, like updates on public transit services, as well as some entertaining and whimsical items. For instance, Library of Congress IFTTT scripts can email users the Today in History blog post or update an Android phone's wallpaper with a new photo.

You can find the whole list of scripts, and instructions for making your own, on IFTTT's website.

06.22.17 | 3 hours ago

Now Trump wants a “solar wall” along Mexico’s border

Because Mexico is sunny, or hot, or something, so the wall will pay for itself. Take it away, Trump (via Bloomberg):

"We're thinking of something that's unique, we're talking about the southern border. Lots of sun, lots of heat. We're thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy, and pays for itself. And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that's good. Is that good?"

"Think about it, the higher it goes, the more valuable it is. Pretty good imagination, right, good? My idea."

06.22.17 | 4 hours ago

Twitter’s Periscope will now let you tip broadcasters using virtual currency

The company has added a feature to its Periscope app that allows users to purchase "Super Hearts" during live streams and then give them to that broadcaster, reports MacRumors. Viewers purchase the Super Hearts with Periscope's "Periscope Coins" virtual currency. The Super Hearts can then be redeemed by broadcasters at the end of each month for cash. Read our story on Super Hearts here

06.22.17 | 4 hours ago

Jeff Bezos has a lot of advice for the newspaper industry

The Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner dropped some knowledge at the Future of Newspapers conference in Turin, Italy, on Wednesday, reports CNBC. Here is some of Bezos's key advice to newspapers:

• "We run Amazon and the Washington Post in a very similar way in terms of the basic approach. We attempt to be customer-centric, which in the case of the Post means reader-centric. I think you can get confused, you can be advertiser-centric—and what advertisers want, of course, is readers—and so you should be simpleminded about that and you should be focused on readers. If you can focus on readers, advertisers will come."

• "This industry spent 20 years teaching everyone in the world that news should be free. The truth is, readers are smarter than that. They know high-quality journalism is expensive to produce, and they are willing to pay for it, but you have to ask them. We've tightened our paywall, and every time we've tightened our paywall, subscriptions go up."

"When you're writing, be riveting, be right, and ask people to pay. They will pay."

• Bezos believes publications should use data to test headlines and understand how people engage with certain stories: "I would never let anybody or ask anybody to be slavish to data, but I'd also be super-skeptical of people who aren't curious about the data."

• "This is not a philanthropic endeavor. For me, I really believe, a healthy newspaper that has an independent newsroom should be self-sustaining. And I think it's achievable. And we've achieved it. [The reason is because] constraints drive creativity. The worst thing I could've done for the Post, I believe, is to have said don't worry about revenue, whatever you need, just do the job. Because I don't think that would lead to as much quality when there are in fact constraints."

• "One of the first rules of business is complaining is not a strategy. You have to work with the world as you find it, not as you would have it be."

• When Bezos took over the Post, the newsroom was laying off people. Now they've added 140 reporters. "What they needed was a little bit of runway and the encouragement to experiment, and to stop shrinking. You can't shrink your way into relevance. . . . We've grown our way into profitability instead of shrinking our way into profitability."

06.22.17 | 6:17 am

A Chinese bike-sharing startup has closed because riders stole almost all their bikes

Wukong Bike has had to shut down after just six months because its riders stole 90% of its 1,200 bicycles, reports Mashable. Wukong operated under the Uber model where anyone could grab a bike off the street, unlock it with the app, and then leave it on the street at their destination. The problem was Wukong didn't invest in GPS for their bikes, so the company had no way of knowing where the bikes were once people hired them. Eventually, users caught on to that and decided to take the bikes home with them.

06.21.17 | 9:14 pm

Can the Drybar model be replicated with makeup? 

Until Drybar came along, nobody imagined they would spend $50 at a salon to have their hair styled. No cut, no color, just blow-dried. But these days, Drybar is growing rapidly around the country. 

New York-based salon Joli Beauty Bar is testing out a model in which women stop in and pay between $35 and $60 to have their makeup done. They've discovered that many women feel more confident knowing that a professional artist has worked on their face. "We have women who come in here before an interview or a date," says Zsuzsi Evans, founder and CEO. "Some women come as a group, just for fun, with nowhere in particular to go."

So far, it hasn't taken much to convince women that this service is worth the money. The company's founders are now planning to expand in New York, and the rest of the country. 

[Images via Joli Beauty Bar]

06.21.17 | 9:05 pm

What’s with all the scratchy, rumpled linen sheets?

For a long time, the epitome of luxury bedding was extra-long staple cotton, which rendered sheets soft and silky. Brands like Brooklinen and Parachute made a business of selling high-end cotton sheets at reasonable prices. But over the last few years, customers have been asking for a decidedly different type of sheet: linen. This fabric is rougher and stiffer than cotton and tends to look rumpled on the bed, which is the opposite of the smooth look you get with cotton. 

Vicki Fulop, the cofounder of Brooklinen, which just launched a line of linen sheets today, says that part of the trend has to do with customers wanting to change their sheets depending on the season. Linen works better in the summer because it stands up to humidity. "It cools and insulates better because its moisture-wicking," she explains. 

Fulop says the brand spent two years iterating the linen fabric they used to ensure it had both the cooling properties that the customer wanted but also a soft hand-feel. 

[Image via Brooklinen]

06.21.17 | 5:25 pm

Video: Where does Uber go from here?

Fast Company's Marcus Baram discusses some of the key questions about Uber's future following Travis Kalanick's departure from the top post. Check it out below.

06.21.17 | 5:14 pm

Richard Branson: If Trump won’t take climate change seriously, business leaders need to pick up the slack

After a Virgin Mobile event today, we caught up with Virgin founder Richard Branson. When we asked about our current U.S. administration's decisions regarding climate change, Branson said it's the job of the world's business leaders to pick up the slack. 

"I think business leaders need to step into the breach and make sure that America and the rest of the world is run on clean fuels," he said. "I think by 2040, to by 2050. If you have a president that is not going to support that, then we've just got to work all the harder to make sure it comes about. Because every year, this blanket that is around the earth is getting thicker and thicker, and the world is heating up and heating up, and the damage it's going to do to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it will be, as I've said before, too sad to imagine."

"I think tons of money should go into the whole battery sector," he added. "I think tons of money is going into the whole battery sector. We need those breakthroughs that mean that everything is powered at nighttime by batteries when the sun is turned off."