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05.17.16 | 12:02 pm

The end of code? Not so fast

Wired's latest cover story has a lofty title: "The End Of Code."

The lengthy feature maps the evolution of technology and computing, and makes the claim that coding as we know it will likely come to an end, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which trains computers to do the heavy lifting. Jason Tanz writes, "Our machines are starting to speak a different language now, one that even the best coders can't fully understand. "

New York Magazine's Brian Feldman brings up an important point, however. In his estimation, this doesn't actually mean that coding is done for, just that the people and companies wiring these smart machines will become even more revered than coding and developer culture is now. He writes:

Who constructs and maintains these supposedly revolutionary neural networks? The answer is developers and engineers—people who possess the sort of specialized computer know-how that Wired argues will soon be a thing of the past. That's not eradicating code as we know it; that's sending it one level deeper into bureaucratic obfuscation.

In short, coding is, and will be, alive and well.

06.26.17 | an hour ago

Pandora’s Tim Westergren is the latest CEO to step down

Well, that didn't last long. Fifteen months after taking over as CEO, Pandora cofounder Tim Westergren is reportedly stepping down. The company hasn't said anything about a potential replacement. 

The news comes amid a lot of change and challenges at the 15-year-old music company. Westergren, who took over somewhat suddenly for previous CEO Brian McAndrews last year, oversaw the final stages of the launch of Pandora Premium, its paid music subscription service. The new offering was built from the remains of Rdio, one of three companies it acquired in late 2015 as the company attempted to expand into subscriptions, live event ticketing, and music analytics. Another of those acquisitions, TicketFly was just sold to Eventbrite for $200 million. At the same time, Pandora got a $480 million investment from SiriusXM, a company that many people expected to acquire Pandora. 

Last month, news broke of an executive departure at one of Pandora's main rivals when Tidal CEO Jeff Toig left the company, its third chief executive in two years.

06.25.17 | an hour ago

UPDATE: Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck resigns in wake of sexual harassment allegations

The venture capital firm's co-founding partner took a leave of absence on Friday after several female entrepreneurs accused him of sexual harassment. On Sunday, Caldbeck went a step further and resigned, according to an email obtained by Axios's Dan Primack that co-founder Jonathan Teo had sent to Binary Capital's limited partners. In the email, Teo also noted that partner Matt Mazzeo had also left the firm and that Binary Capital had hired lawyers from white-shoe law firm Gibson Dunn to "conduct an independent internal investigation of this matter."

Here is the beginning of the email:

I trusted my partner and it is clear that I shouldn't have. The predatory behavior Justin has been accused of is deplorable, and there will be zero tolerance at our firm of any conduct that is demeaning to women.
Effective immediately, Justin has resigned from Binary Capital. He will have no further role at the firm and I will be the sole managing partner…

Read the full story here.

06.23.17 | 4:18 pm

Binary Capital partner Justin Caldbeck takes leave of absence after sexual harassment allegations

Yesterday, the Information published a report documenting allegations from six women who accused venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck of making unwanted sexual advances toward them, from groping to inappropriate text messages. Barely 24 hours later, Caldbeck has announced he is taking an "indefinite leave of absence" and will be getting professional counseling. 

"The power dynamic that exists in venture capital is despicably unfair," he said in a statement provided to Fast Company. "The gap of influence between male venture capitalists and female entrepreneurs is frightening, and I hate that my behavior played a role in perpetrating a gender-hostile environment. It is outrageous and unethical for any person to leverage a position of power in exchange for sexual gain, it is clear to me now that that is exactly what I've done."

Could this be a harbinger of things to come? As Fast Company's Ruth Reader posited recently, perhaps this is the year companies will stop giving workplace sexism a pass. 

06.23.17 | 3:44 pm

LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman on sexual harassment in VC: “Why the lack of outrage and commentary?” 

In response to the recent allegations of misconduct levied against Binary Capital partner Justin Caldbeck, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman took to—where else?—LinkedIn to ask why the response to the report was so tepid. It is critical that people sat up and paid attention, he wrote, because incidents of sexual harassment are commonplace in the world of venture capital

Hoffman echoes what was said by the women who made the allegations against Caldbeck: VCs aren't held accountable for their actions because there is no system in place to do so—and that needs to change. 

Hoffman's suggestion is that the industry "actively work on building a kind of industry-wide HR function." But that can't happen without a shift in mind-set. "VCs should understand that they have the same moral position to the entrepreneurs they interact with that a manager has to an employee, or a college professor to a student," he writes.  

Read Hoffman's post in full here. 

06.23.17 | 3:21 pm

Airbnb is testing out a way to split the cost for bookings

Airbnb is trying out group payments. "We're currently testing a way to split the cost of a trip on the Airbnb platform. This is a limited, initial pilot–our goal is to make it even easier to use Airbnb to travel with friends and family," reads a statement from Airbnb spokesman Tim Rathscmidt. The ability to split payments on the platform was first discovered by the Next Web. It's a new payment pilot built on the same infrastructure as its flexible payment options (a feature I discovered while booking my honeymoon recently). Airbnb is known for experimenting with ways to pay, but the sudden burst of innovation comes after it acquired Tilt.

06.23.17 | 2:08 pm

Here’s why it took Gmail 13 years to stop scanning your email to target ads

When Gmail debuted on April 1, 2004, one of its numerous innovations was the fact that it scanned the text of emails in order to target ads. Though that made the advertising more relevant, it also struck some people as an invasion of privacy, leading to lawsuits, snark from competitors, and a controversy that has dwindled but never quite disappeared.

But now Google is dropping the use of email scanning for ad-targeting purposes. As Bloomberg's Mark Bergen reports, the decision was driven by Google Cloud chief Diane Greene—an increasingly influential figure within the company—and addresses the concerns of business customers who aren't comfy with anyone (even a computer) nosing around in confidential communications.

The new policy also applies to the free consumer-oriented version of Gmail. But Google will still use what it knows about you to choose ads: It's just that it will make decisions based on your searches and YouTube habits rather than the contents of your inbox.

Here's the screen Google used to explain Gmail ads back in 2004: 

     

06.23.17 | 12:30 pm

The “stardust” wasp is a creepy-looking, 100 million-year-old tribute to David Bowie

As anyone who has seen Jurassic Park knows, amber can preserve specimens for eras. So when Longfeng Li, a student at China's Capitol Normal University, showed up at the Smithsonian with some specimens preserved in Burmese amber, researchers were able to identify them as two new-to-science species of wasps that were some 100 million years old. 

According to Science Daily, one of the wasps belongs to a genus (Proteroscelio) that scientists only know exists thanks to the fossil record from the Cretaceous period. The second wasp, meanwhile, actually still has living relatives: While that discovery surprised scientists, civilians are mostly impressed by the fact that the newly discovered wasp was named in homage to David Bowie. The wasp's scientific name is Archaeoteleia astropulvis. Astropulvis is Latin for "stardust" and given as a tribute to Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Bless them, but scientists are such nerds, something we already knew from watching Jurassic Park

[Photo: Dr. Elijah J Talamas]

06.23.17 | 12:15 pm

Scientists think there’s a Mars-shaped object lurking in the solar system past Neptune

Scientists may have uncovered a planet lurking in the dark, all the way out past Neptune. Kathryn Volk and Renu Malhotra at the University of Arizona believe they have uncovered signs of a new possible planet with the mass of Mars. They believe its mass is warping the orbits of objects floating around in the Kuiper belt, according to New Scientist

Last year, Caltech astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown used a similar methodology to predict the existence of a ninth planet (no, not you Pluto) farther out in the solar system. Volk's and Malhotra's "Planet 10" would be closer to home. They will publish their study in The Astronomical Journal, showing how the wonky, warped orbits are best explained by a new planet. "The most likely explanation for our results is that there is some unseen mass," Volk said in a statement. "According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured." She also told New Scientist that "it would have to be quite a fluke for this to not be a real effect." 

Of course, not every astronomer is jumping on board with Planet 10's existence quite yet. Batygin pointed out to Gizmodo that there's still one big problem with this theory: "It runs into the problem that it hasn't been observed yet." We'll be over here watching Ancient Aliens while the astronomers sort this one out. 

[Photo: NASA]

06.23.17 | 11:50 am

PayPal cuts off French white nationalist group as era of political boycotts heats up

In the new era of booming political boycotts, left-leaning activists are targeting the funding sources that keep their right-wing opponents online and in business. They scored a recent victory in France when PayPal and two big European banks, France's Credit Mutuel and Austria's Sparkasse, dropped their service to the French white nationalist group Generation Identitaire (Generation Identity). Activist group SumOfUs says it will now target banking services that support U.S. white nationalist and other extreme-right sites, a topic we investigated recently.

06.23.17 | 10:57 am

In a rare move, Google starts purging health records from its search results

[Photo: Brandon Morgan]

There are very few things Google will intentionally remove from its search results—in fact, it used to be only seven things. Now the company has updated the list of what it will take down, adding a new criteria: health records. The change, reported by Bloomberg, comes after reports that tens of thousands of medical documents were indexed onto Google's search engine late last year

Before the update, the list of delete-worthy content included revenge and child porn and personally identifiable information, including ID numbers, signatures, as well as bank and credit card numbers. Now Google has updated its policy to include "confidential, personal medical records of private people," Bloomberg reports.

06.23.17 | 10:50 am

Smells like green spirit: Lime Skittles fans have hounded Mars Inc. into submission

Back in 2013, Wrigley/Mars Inc. decided to ruin lives and break up families by swapping out lime-flavored Skittles for green apple ones. The change induced tears, weeping, and wailing, rending of clothes, wearing of sack cloth and ashes, and whatever other forms of grieving Skittles devotees could unearth from Sophocles. In other words, some people complained about it on the internet. 

Now fans of that "long lost" flavor have so aggravated Wrigley/Mars by flooding their social media channels with emoji-filled pleas (no emoji translator needed) that lime Skittles are coming back, albeit for a limited time. This summer Walmart (and only Walmart; take that Amazon!) will be selling "Long Lost Lime" packs of Skittles alongside packs of Skittles "Originals" (even, though, as purists will point out, lime was the original). It will tide us over until spicy Skittles are released.

Walmart seems to be making a push into the retro market since they were also the only outlet where '90s enthusiasts could find Oreo O's cereal and even Zima. It's a way for the company to compete in the sizzling grocery-store wars, especially because '90s kids and teens are now right in the target demographic.

[Photo: Skittles]

06.23.17 | 10:02 am

Facebook is building an army of U.K. users to fight extremism

As Facebook continues to try to deal with the rise of violent and extremist content posted to its platform, the company is implementing a new tactic: empower (or outsource) outside groups to be watchdogs. Its latest program, launched in the U.K., will fund and train local non-government groups to monitor and respond to extremist content, even giving them their own platform to communicate directly with the company, Reuters reports

Facebook—and other large tech companies like Alphabet—has been under fire lately from European governments over its inability to curb this sort of abusive content. The new program works alongside its artificial intelligence efforts, which aim to use technology to automatically take down flagged posts, as well as Facebook's army of outsourced content moderators around the globe. 

[Photo: Evan Kirby]