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05.23.16 | 10:29 am

Why the Angry Birds Movie is a box-office champ despite . . . everything

A Slack-versation about how Angry Birds is the #1 movie and what it means:

@davidlidsky: The movie being a hit—despite being late, despite the bad reviews—basically saves the company. They didn't license their characters but took on all the risk in the hopes of a big reward. Also, note Jonah Peretti's comment in our BuzzFeed feature from the March issue about the rise of "post-literate media."

Peretti, channeling Marshall McLuhan, believes BuzzFeed will succeed globally because of the rise of postliterate media. "Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Minions, Transformers," he rattles off. "Anywhere the dialogue is less important than the special effects. Or a Nicki Minaj video. There are things that you don't really need language to appreciate."

Angry Birds translates across cultures and geography and that's why it's the number one movie in 48 countries right now.

@marcusbaram: Part of me feels like there's not even any real passion for the movie, just that it was the BIG kids' movie this weekend, nice weather, perfect time of year, it's a no-brainer that it will pack theaters. Not sure if there's any lasting impact to it—big toy sales, sequels, etc. But I could be completely wrong. None of the characters seem to lend themselves to becoming brands in their own right.

Harken back to when Angry Birds first harbored its dreams of being the next Disney with this 2012 feature.

06.29.17 | 2 hours ago

Instagram introduces a troll-tricking layer that filters abusive comments with machine learning

The online wars are filled with trolls and spam. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have pledged to do their part to make them safe places to connect, meaning figuring out ways to reduce abusive comments and spam. 

Instagram today is introducing a new tool to help this fight. By using machine learning, the Facebook-owned app is hoping to automatically flag and remove toxic and abusive content. The automatic filter will not let the commenter know that their post was flagged—in fact, it will still be visible to them—but everyone else will just not see it.

Similarly, Instagram is also using machine learning to combat spam messages. You can read more about these new machine learning efforts here

06.29.17 | 2 hours ago

Here’s why 2007 was the most amazing year—and it’s not just the iPhone

Well, you probably already heard that the iPhone went on sale 10 years ago today. If you think back on those marvelous, magical days of 2007, then you'll recall the unprecedented mania that surrounded the release of Apple's transformative device. Our Harry McCracken wrote today about how we're not likely to see an equivalent phenomenon anytime soon

But in fact, 2007 was peppered with tech-related milestones. In March, you had Twitter's big coming-out party at SXSW. In October, two young hopefuls named Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia came up with a crazy idea to rent out "air beds" in their San Francisco pad. And in November, Amazon debuted some e-reader thing called the Kindle. Oh, and this is not tech-related, but Time magazine closed out the year in December with a cover story about some up-and-coming politico named Barack Obama (which was actually a real cover).

So there you have it. Pretty amazing year. And by the way, I fully plan to write a Broadway musical about this, so let this post stand as my official announcement. 

[Photo: Egor Khomiakov]

06.29.17 | 2 hours ago

Report: The New York Times staff is preparing to walk off the job to protest copy editor cuts

The New York Times is going through a major restructuring process. Currently the company is trying to offer many editorial staffers buyouts as well as figure out other ways to trim fat. One of the teams being hit the hardest is the copy editors. 

The invisible but necessary group of people who make sure the newspaper's copy is clean and error-free is being asked to cut its staff down by almost half. In a letter to top editors, which was published by Poynter, the copyediting team called these cuts "dumbfoundingly unrealistic." (For context, the Times publishes upwards of 200 articles every day.)

Now it looks like the edit team will protest the copy editor cuts by walking out this afternoon.

According to the letter sent yesterday, the copy editors just want to work with the top brass to figure out a feasible number of staff members to make the thankless job actually possible. We reached out to the Times for comment and will update if we hear back.

06.29.17 | 2 hours ago

Amazon Prime may soon deliver Olive Garden breadsticks to your dinner table

Earnings calls are the bread and butter of business reporting, but earlier this week they were the breadsticks and salad, too. On an earnings call on Tuesday with Olive Garden's parent company, Darden Restaurants, CEO Gene Lee announced that Olive Garden has started testing the best way to deliver their latest Italian (-ish) culinary wonders via Amazon Prime, according to CNBC. Lee was sparse on details, only going so far as to say the company would "continue to partner with them and see if we can make that work." So, as of now, it's unclear how this will work with Olive Garden's never-ending pasta bowl or their unlimited salad and breadsticks, but we can't wait to find out. (Sausage-stuffed giant rigatoni delivered via drone, perhaps?)  

Lee also claimed that "millennials want to go to [their] restaurants," telling the investors on the call that, "30% of our guests are millennials, versus 24% of the population." Don't doubt that statistic. Millennials are undoubtedly flocking to Olive Garden to do some historical reenactment of this epic first date, which could never have happened if people were eating Olive Garden in their living room.

[Photo: Yelp, Inc.]

06.29.17 | 4 hours ago

Prime Day is incredibly lucrative for Amazon

July 11 is the next Prime Day when Amazon Prime customers can grab great deals on everything from televisions to e-books. This will be the third annual Prime Day, which means Amazon is making enough to consider it worthwhile. But just how much extra money does Amazon make on Prime day? As CNBC reports, analysts peg the figure at anything from $500 million to $600 million in years past, but many are expecting Amazon to bring in a much bigger haul this year.

06.29.17 | 4 hours ago

Here’s why it doesn’t make sense to make the iPhone in America

Cheaper labor isn't the main reason, reports Bloomberg. They note that labor is only 2.2% (about $5) of the iPhone's hardware cost (estimated to be $224.80). The ability to scale the volume of labor, on the other hand, is a major factor. China's Foxconn can rapidly hire up to a million workers during "iPhone season" and cut back to a few hundred thousand when iPhone production isn't ramping up—something that would be much more difficult in America. Also, as most of the suppliers who make components for the iPhone are Chinese-based, and thus located within 50 miles of Foxconn facilities, iPhone components can be shipped cheaply and quickly to arrive at iPhone assembly facilities, something not possible if the iPhone was made in America.

06.29.17 | 7:21 am

Station F, the world’s largest startup campus, just opened in Paris

The 34,000-square-meter (around 111,550 square feet) incubator is located in a former railway depot and will house 1,000 startups, which are expected to move into the space in early July, reports the New York Times. Major tech companies like Amazon and Facebook are backing the incubator, while Microsoft will be basing its newest AI startup program there. Other companies such as gaming giant Ubisoft and Japanese messaging app Line will also house programs at Station F. 

In March, we wrote about how Paris is becoming a beacon of innovation under the leadership of its mayor, Anne Hidalgo. Read that story here.

06.28.17 | 6:43 pm

Whoa, phones sure looked funny when the iPhone launched

On June 29, 2007, at 6 p.m. local time, the first iPhone went on sale at Apple Stores. While Nate Ritter waited to buy one, he took pictures of other people in the line with the phones they planned to dump once they'd become iPhone owners. His Flickr set of snapshots remains online and is a fascinating visual summary of typical phones of the time, from hideous flip phones to once-cool Treos to the Sidekick, which I desperately wanted but (for reasons I don't recall) never had. I was reminded of models I'd forgotten ever existed, such as Nokia's bizarre N-Gage; there's even one guy brandishing the HTC Windows Mobile phone that I think I owned back then. (I didn't buy an iPhone myself until a year later, when the first 3G model arrived.)

I don't, however, see any BlackBerry models–possibly a sign that the people who owned them were more likely than most to be happy with what they had?

This almost doesn't need saying: Not very long after that first iPhone debuted, nearly all smartphones looked an awful lot like it, and the era of the smartphone field consisting of a motley crew of unrelated designs was over.

[Photo by Nate Ritter]

06.28.17 | 5:58 pm

Here’s the first TV commercial for the original iPhone–“Hello”

Apple's first iPhone ad features about 50 well-known faces cut from TV shows and movies saying, "Hello," like Dustin Hoffman, Marilyn Monroe, and Will Ferrell (well, he actually screams it). The ad seems to say the iPhone is first and foremost a great phone . . . that happens to be a bunch of other things like a music player and an internet device. "Hello" first ran on February 25, 2007, during the Oscars. As the iPhone turns 10 years old on Thursday, the ad still seems fresh.

[Source: Gul Tech Life/YouTube]

06.28.17 | 5:44 pm

Do you have what it takes to moderate Facebook hate speech? Take the quiz

The folks at ProPublica unveiled a huge journalistic get today: internal Facebook documents that offer a peek into the secret guidelines it uses to moderate hate speech and violent content. Reviewing posts and deciding what to remove is a Sisyphean task for a social network with two billion users, so it's not all that surprising that the company tries to rely heavily on mathematical formulas. But the execution is jarring to say the least. 

Included in the story is a slideshow quiz (recreated by ProPublica from rules that may have since "changed slightly") that shows guidelines Facebook has used to distinguish between protected categories and non-protected categories. Protected categories include things like race and gender identity, while non-protected categories include things like age and social class. Then there are a lot of category subsets—like "children" or "drivers"—which can result in non-protected categories when combined with protected ones. So, "Irish teens" is not protected but "Irish women" is, according to the slideshow. Lost yet? Check out the article and click through the slideshow.   

06.28.17 | 5:06 pm

London’s Heathrow airport is opening a full-scale fitness studio, so you’ll finally be able to take that preflight yoga class

Now you can do more than buy magazines and Toblerone before your flight. On Wednesday, London's Heathrow announced what it says is the very first wellness and fitness studio located in an airport. Travelers will be able to sweat it out solo or join instructor-led cardio, strength, or yoga classes. They will also be able to rent workout clothing, shower, and pick up a few healthy food options before their journey. The space, produced in conjunction with U.S.-based FlyFit, will be in Terminal 2, which sees 16 million passengers each year and hosts over 25 airlines.

"We are creating a space for fitness and community that has previously been lacking in airports," says CMO and founder Lauren Perkins in a press statement.

Wellness spaces are growing within airports. San Francisco International and Dallas-Fort Worth International are two of several airports that feature meditation/yoga rooms. A few airports—such as Dubai and Toronto's Pearson International—feature fitness lounges with equipment like treadmills. FlyFit, however, seems to be the very first full-scale fitness center offering services and amenities in line with traditional gym franchises.

Heathrow's studio opens this fall.

06.28.17 | 1:39 pm

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 Secret.ly 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 Secret.ly 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 Secret.ly 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]